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Novel by Charles Dickens, published both serially and in book form in 1859. The story is set in the late 18th century against the background of the French Revolution. Although Dickens borrowed from Thomas Carlyle's history, The French Revolution, for his sprawling tale of London and revolutionary Paris, the novel offers more drama than accuracy. The scenes of large-scale mob violence are especially vivid, if superficial in historical understanding. The complex plot involves Sydney Carton's sacrifice of his own life on behalf of his friends Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette. While political events drive the story, Dickens takes a decidedly antipolitical tone, lambasting both aristocratic tyranny and revolutionary excess--the latter memorably caricatured in Madame Defarge, who knits beside the guillotine. The book is perhaps best known for its opening lines, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," and for Carton's last speech, in which he says of his replacing Darnay in a prison cell, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."
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Table of Contents
Book the First—Recalled to Life
I. The Period
II. The Mail
III. The Night Shadows
IV. The Preparation
V. The Wine-shop
VI. The Shoemaker
Book the Second—the Golden Thread
I. Five Years Later
II. A Sight
III. A Disappointment
V. The Jackal
VI. Hundreds of People
VII. Monseigneur in Town
VIII. Monseigneur in the Country
IX. The Gorgon’s Head
X. Two Promises
XI. A Companion Picture
XII. The Fellow of Delicacy
XIII. The Fellow of No Delicacy
XIV. The Honest Tradesman
XVI. Still Knitting
XVII. One Night
XVIII. Nine Days
XIX. An Opinion
XX. A Plea
XXI. Echoing Footsteps
XXII. The Sea Still Rises
XXIII. Fire Rises
XXIV. Drawn to the Loadstone Rock
Book the Third—the Track of a Storm
I. In Secret
II. The Grindstone
III. The Shadow
IV. Calm in Storm
V. The Wood-Sawyer
VII. A Knock at the Door
VIII. A Hand at Cards
IX. The Game Made
X. The Substance of the Shadow
XIV. The Knitting Done
XV. The Footsteps Die Out For Ever
A Tale of Two Cities
First digital edition 2018 by Anna Ruggieri
It was the best of times,it was the worst of times,it was the age of wisdom,it was the age of foolishness,it was the epoch of belief,it was the epoch of incredulity,it was the season of Light,it was the season of Darkness,it was the spring of hope,it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way— in short, the period was so farlike the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England;there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever.
It was the yearof Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five. Spiritual revelations were conceded to England at that favoured period, as at this. Mrs. Southcott had recently attained her five-and-twentieth blessed birthday, of whom a prophetic private in the Life Guards had heralded the sublime appearance by announcing that arrangements were made for the swallowing up of London and Westminster. Even the Cock-lane ghost had been laid only a round dozen of years, after rapping out its messages, as the spirits of this very year last past (supernaturally deficient in originality) rapped out theirs. Mere messages in the earthly order of events had lately come to the English Crown and People, from a congress of British subjects in America: which, strange to relate, have proved more important to the human race than any communications yet received through any of the chickens of the Cock-lane brood.
France, less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness down hill, making paper money and spending it. Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and hisbody burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honour to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards. It is likely enough that, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, therewere growing trees, when that sufferer was put to death, already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it, terrible in history. It is likely enough that in the rough outhouses of some tillers of the heavy lands adjacent to Paris, there weresheltered from the weather that very day, rude carts, bespattered with rustic mire, snuffed about by pigs, and roosted in by poultry, which the Farmer, Death, had already set apart to be his tumbrils of the Revolution. But that Woodman and that Farmer, though they work unceasingly, work silently, and no one heard them as they went about with muffled tread: the rather, forasmuch as to entertain any suspicion that they were awake, was to be atheistical and traitorous.
In England, there was scarcely an amount of order and protection to justify much national boasting. Daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies, took place in the capital itself every night; families werepublicly cautioned not to go out of town without removing their furniture to upholsterers’ warehouses for security; the highwayman in the dark was a City tradesman in the light, and, being recognised and challenged by his fellow-tradesman whom he stopped in his character of “the Captain,” gallantly shot him through the head and rode away; the mail was waylaid by seven robbers, and the guard shot three dead, and then got shot dead himself by the other four, “in consequence of the failure of his ammunition:”after which the mail was robbed in peace; that magnificent potentate, the Lord Mayor of London, was made to stand and deliver on Turnham Green, by one highwayman, who despoiled the illustrious creature in sight of all his retinue; prisoners in London gaolsfought battles with their turnkeys, and the majesty of the law fired blunderbusses in among them, loaded with rounds of shot and ball; thieves snipped off diamond crosses from the necks of noble lords at Court drawing-rooms; musketeers went into St. Giles’s, to search for contraband goods, and the mob fired on the musketeers, and the musketeers fired on the mob, and nobody thought any of these occurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them, the hangman, ever busy and ever worse than useless,was in constant requisition; now, stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now, hanging a housebreaker on Saturday who had been taken on Tuesday; now, burning people in the hand at Newgate by the dozen, and now burning pamphlets at the door of Westminster Hall; to-day, taking the life of an atrocious murderer, and to-morrow of a wretched pilferer who had robbed a farmer’s boy of sixpence.
All these things, and a thousand like them, came to pass in and close upon the dear old year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five. Environed by them, while the Woodman and the Farmer worked unheeded, those two of the large jaws, and those other two of the plain and the fair faces, trod with stir enough, and carried their divine rights with a high hand. Thusdid the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five conduct their Greatnesses, and myriads of small creatures—the creatures of this chronicle among the rest—along the roads that lay before them.
It was the Dover road that lay, ona Friday night late inNovember, before the first of the persons with whom this historyhas business. The Dover road lay, as to him, beyond the Dover mail,as it lumbered up Shooter’s Hill. He walked up hill in themire by the side of the mail, as the rest of the passengers did;not because they had the least relish for walking exercise, underthe circumstances, but because the hill, and the harness, and themud, and the mail, were all so heavy, that the horses had threetimes already come to a stop, besides once drawing the coach acrossthe road, with the mutinous intent of taking it back to Blackheath.Reins and whip and coachman and guard, however, in combination, hadread that article of war which forbade a purpose otherwise stronglyin favour of the argument, that some brute animals are endued withReason; and the team had capitulated and returned to theirduty.
With drooping heads and tremulous tails, they mashed their waythrough the thick mud, floundering and stumbling between whiles, asif they werefalling to pieces at the larger joints. As often as thedriver rested them and brought them to a stand, with a wary“Wo-ho! so-ho-then!” the near leader violently shookhis head and everything upon it—like an unusually emphatichorse, denying that the coach could be got up the hill. Wheneverthe leader made this rattle, the passenger started, as a nervouspassenger might, and was disturbed in mind.
There was a steaming mist in all the hollows, and it had roamedin its forlornness up the hill, like an evilspirit, seeking restand finding none. A clammy and intensely cold mist, it made itsslow way through the air in ripples that visibly followed andoverspread one another, as the waves of an unwholesome sea mightdo. It was dense enough to shut out everything from the light ofthe coach-lamps but these its own workings, and a few yards ofroad; and the reek of the labouring horses steamed into it, as ifthey had made it all.
Two other passengers, besides the one, were plodding up the hillby the side of themail. All three were wrapped to the cheekbonesand over the ears, and wore jack-boots. Not one of the three couldhave said, from anything he saw, what either of the other two waslike; and each was hidden under almost as many wrappers from theeyes of themind, as from the eyes of the body, of his twocompanions. In those days, travellers were very shy of beingconfidential on a short notice, for anybody on the road might be arobber or in league with robbers. As to the latter, when everyposting-house andale-house could produce somebody in “theCaptain’s” pay, ranging from the landlord to the loweststable non-descript, it was the likeliest thing upon the cards. Sothe guard of the Dover mail thought to himself, that Friday nightin November, one thousandseven hundred and seventy-five, lumberingup Shooter’s Hill, as he stood on his own particular perchbehind the mail, beating his feet, and keeping an eye and a hand onthe arm-chest before him, where a loaded blunderbuss lay at the topof six or eight loaded horse-pistols, deposited on a substratum ofcutlass.
The Dover mail was in its usual genial position that the guardsuspected the passengers, the passengers suspected one another andthe guard, they all suspected everybody else,and the coachman wassure of nothing but the horses; as to which cattle he could with aclear conscience have taken his oath on the two Testaments thatthey were not fit for the journey.
“Wo-ho!” said the coachman. “So, then! Onemore pull and you’re at the top and be damned toyou, for Ihave had trouble enough to get you to it!—Joe!”
“Halloa!” the guard replied.
“What o’clock do you make it, Joe?”
“Ten minutes, good, past eleven.”
“My blood!” ejaculated the vexed coachman,“and not atop of Shooter’s yet! Tst! Yah! Get onwithyou!”
The emphatic horse, cut short by the whip in a most decidednegative, made a decided scramble for it, and the three otherhorses followed suit. Once more, the Dover mail struggled on, withthe jack-boots of its passengers squashing along by its side.Theyhad stopped when the coach stopped, and they kept close companywith it. If any one of the three had had the hardihood to proposeto another to walk on a little ahead into the mist and darkness, hewould have put himself in a fair way of getting shotinstantly as ahighwayman.
The last burst carried the mail to the summit of the hill. Thehorses stopped to breathe again, and the guard got down to skid thewheel for the descent, and open the coach-door to let thepassengers in.
“Tst! Joe!” cried the coachman in a warning voice,looking down from his box.
“What do you say, Tom?”
They both listened.
“I say a horse at a canter coming up, Joe.”
“Isay a horse at a gallop, Tom,” returned the guard,leaving his hold of the door, and mounting nimbly to his place.“Gentlemen! In the king’s name, all of you!”
With this hurried adjuration, he cocked his blunderbuss, andstood on the offensive.
The passenger booked by this history, was on the coach-step,getting in; the two other passengers were close behind him, andabout to follow. He remained on the step, half in the coach andhalf out of; they remained in the road below him. They all lookedfrom the coachman to the guard, and from the guard to the coachman,and listened. The coachman looked back and the guard looked back,and even the emphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back,without contradicting.
The stillness consequent on the cessation of the rumbling andlabouring of the coach, added to the stillness of the night, madeit very quiet indeed. The panting of the horses communicated atremulous motion to the coach, as if it were in a state ofagitation. The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps tobe heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressiveof people out of breath, andholding the breath, and having thepulses quickened by expectation.
The sound of a horse at a gallop came fast and furiously up thehill.
“So-ho!” the guard sang out, as loud as he couldroar. “Yo there! Stand! I shall fire!”
The pace was suddenly checked, and, with much splashing andfloundering, a man’s voice called from the mist, “Isthat the Dover mail?”
“Never you mind what it is!” the guard retorted.“What are you?”
“Isthat the Dover mail?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“I want a passenger, if it is.”
“Mr. Jarvis Lorry.”
Our booked passenger showed in a moment that it was his name.The guard, the coachman, and the two other passengers eyed himdistrustfully.
“Keep where you are,” the guard called to the voicein the mist, “because, ifI should make a mistake, it couldnever be set right in your lifetime. Gentleman of the name of Lorryanswer straight.”
“What is the matter?” asked the passenger, then,with mildly quavering speech. “Who wants me? Is itJerry?”
(“I don’t like Jerry’s voice, if it isJerry,” growled the guard to himself. “He’shoarser than suits me, is Jerry.”)
“Yes, Mr. Lorry.”
“What is the matter?”
“A despatch sent after you from over yonder. T. andCo.”
“I know this messenger, guard,” said Mr. Lorry,getting down into theroad—assisted from behind more swiftlythan politely by the other two passengers, who immediatelyscrambled into the coach, shut the door, and pulled up the window.“He may come close; there’s nothing wrong.”
“I hope there ain’t, but I can’t make so‘Nation sure of that,” said the guard, in gruffsoliloquy. “Hallo you!”
“Well! And hallo you!” said Jerry, more hoarselythan before.
“Come on at a footpace! d’ye mind me? And ifyou’ve got holsters to that saddle o’ yourn,don’t let me see yourhand go nigh ‘em. For I’m adevil at a quick mistake, and when I make one it takes the form ofLead. So now let’s look at you.”
The figures of a horse and rider came slowly through the eddyingmist, and came to the side of the mail, where the passenger stood.The rider stooped, and, casting up his eyes at the guard, handedthe passenger a small folded paper. The rider’s horse wasblown, and both horse and rider were covered with mud, from thehoofs of the horse to the hat of the man.
“Guard!” said the passenger, in a tone of quietbusiness confidence.
The watchful guard, with his right hand at the stock of hisraised blunderbuss, his left at the barrel, and his eye on thehorseman, answered curtly, “Sir.”
“There is nothing to apprehend. I belong toTellson’s Bank. You must know Tellson’s Bank in London.I am going to Paris on business. A crown to drink. I may readthis?”
“If so be as you’re quick, sir.”
He opened it in the light of the coach-lamp on that side, andread—first to himself and then aloud: “‘Wait atDover for Mam’selle.’ It’s not long, you see,guard. Jerry, say that my answer was,Recalled to life.”
Jerry started in his saddle. “That’s a Blazingstrange answer, too,” said he, at his hoarsest.
“Take that message back, and they will know that Ireceived this, as well as if I wrote. Make the best of your way.Good night.”
With those words the passenger opened the coach-door and got in;not at allassisted by his fellow-passengers, who had expeditiouslysecreted their watches and purses in their boots, and were nowmaking a general pretence of being asleep. With no more definitepurpose than to escape the hazard of originating any other kind ofaction.
The coach lumbered on again, with heavier wreaths of mistclosing round it as it began the descent. The guard soon replacedhis blunderbuss in his arm-chest, and, having looked to the rest ofits contents, and having looked to the supplementary pistols thathe wore in his belt, looked to a smaller chest beneath his seat, inwhich there were a few smith’s tools, a couple of torches,and a tinder-box. For he was furnished with that completeness thatif the coach-lamps had been blown and stormed out, which didoccasionally happen, he had only to shut himself up inside, keepthe flint and steel sparks well off the straw, and get a light withtolerable safety and ease (if he were lucky) in five minutes.
“Tom!” softly over the coach roof.
“Didyou hear the message?”
“I did, Joe.”
“What did you make of it, Tom?”
“Nothing at all, Joe.”
“That’s a coincidence, too,” the guard mused,“for I made the same of it myself.”
Jerry, left alone in the mist and darkness, dismountedmeanwhile, not only to easehis spent horse, but to wipe the mudfrom his face, and shake the wet out of his hat-brim, which mightbe capable of holding about half a gallon. After standing with thebridle over his heavily-splashed arm, until the wheels of the mailwere no longer within hearing and the night was quite still again,he turned to walk down the hill.
“After that there gallop from Temple Bar, old lady, Iwon’t trust your fore-legs till I get you on thelevel,” said this hoarse messenger, glancing at his mare.“‘Recalled tolife.’ That’s a Blazingstrange message. Much of that wouldn’t do for you, Jerry! Isay, Jerry! You’d be in a Blazing bad way, if recalling tolife was to come into fashion, Jerry!”
Awonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature isconstituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, thatevery one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret;that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; thatevery beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there,is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable tothis. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved,and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into thedepths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lightsglanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and otherthings submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with aspring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It wasappointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, whenthe light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance ontheshore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, thedarling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation andperpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality,and which I shall carry in mine to my life’s end. In any ofthe burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there asleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in theirinnermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?
As to this, his natural and not to be alienated inheritance, themessenger on horseback had exactly the same possessions as theKing, the first Minister of State, or the richest merchant inLondon. So with the three passengers shut up in the narrow compassof one lumbering old mail coach; they were mysteries to oneanother, as complete as if each had been in his own coach and six,or his own coach and sixty, with the breadth of a county betweenhim and the next.
The messenger rode back at an easy trot, stopping pretty oftenat ale-houses by the way to drink, but evincing a tendencyto keephis own counsel, and to keep his hat cocked over his eyes. He hadeyes that assorted very well with that decoration, being of asurface black, with no depth in the colour or form, and much toonear together—as if they were afraid of being found out insomething, singly, if they kept too far apart. They had a sinisterexpression, under an old cocked-hat like a three-cornered spittoon,and over a great muffler for the chin and throat, which descendednearly to the wearer’s knees. When he stopped fordrink, hemoved this muffler with his left hand, only while he poured hisliquor in with his right; as soon as that was done, he muffledagain.
“No, Jerry, no!” said the messenger, harping on onetheme as he rode. “It wouldn’t do for you, Jerry.Jerry, youhonest tradesman, it wouldn’t suityourline ofbusiness! Recalled—! Bust me if I don’t thinkhe’d been a drinking!”
His message perplexed his mind to that degree that he was fain,several times, to take off his hat to scratch his head. Except onthe crown, which was raggedly bald, he had stiff, black hair,standing jaggedly all over it, and growing down hill almost to hisbroad, blunt nose. It was so like Smith’s work, so much morelike the top of a strongly spiked wall than a head ofhair, that thebestof players at leap-frog might have declined him, as the mostdangerous man in the world to go over.
While he trotted back with the message he was to deliver to thenight watchman in his box at the door of Tellson’s Bank, byTemple Bar, who was to deliver it to greater authorities within,the shadows of the night took such shapes to him as arose out ofthe message, and took such shapes to the mare as arose outofherprivate topics of uneasiness. They seemed to be numerous, forshe shied at every shadow on the road.
What time, the mail-coach lumbered, jolted, rattled, and bumpedupon its tedious way, with its three fellow-inscrutables inside. Towhom, likewise, the shadows of the night revealed themselves, inthe forms their dozing eyes and wandering thoughtssuggested.
Tellson’s Bank had a run upon it in the mail. As the bankpassenger—with an arm drawn through the leathern strap, whichdid what lay in it to keep him from pounding against the nextpassenger, and driving him into his corner, whenever the coachgot aspecial jolt—nodded in his place, with half-shut eyes, thelittle coach-windows, and the coach-lamp dimly gleaming throughthem, and the bulky bundle of opposite passenger, became the bank,and did a great stroke of business. The rattle of the harness wasthe chink of money, and more drafts were honoured in five minutesthan even Tellson’s, with all its foreign and homeconnection, ever paid in thrice the time. Then the strong-roomsunderground, at Tellson’s, with such of their valuable storesand secrets as were known to the passenger (and it was not a littlethat he knew about them), opened before him, and he went in amongthem with the great keys and the feebly-burning candle, and foundthem safe, and strong, and sound, and still, just as he had lastseen them.
But, though the bank was almost always with him, and though thecoach (in a confused way, like the presence of pain under anopiate) was always with him, there was another current ofimpression that never ceased to run, all through the night.He wason his way to dig some one out of a grave.
Now, which of the multitude of faces that showed themselvesbefore him was the true face of the buried person, the shadows ofthe night did not indicate; but they were all the faces of a man offive-and-forty by years, and they differed principally in thepassions they expressed, and in the ghastliness of their worn andwasted state. Pride, contempt, defiance, stubbornness, submission,lamentation, succeeded one another; so did varieties of sunkencheek, cadaverous colour, emaciated hands and figures. But the facewas in the main one face, and every head was prematurely white. Ahundred times the dozing passenger inquired of this spectre:
“Buried how long?”
The answer was always the same: “Almost eighteenyears.”
“You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?”
“You know that you are recalled to life?”
“They tell me so.”
“I hope you care to live?”
“I can’t say.”
“Shall I show her to you? Will you come and seeher?”
The answers to this question werevarious and contradictory.Sometimes the broken reply was, “Wait! It would kill me if Isaw her too soon.” Sometimes, it was given in a tender rainof tears, and then it was, “Take me to her.” Sometimesit was staring and bewildered, and then it was, “Idon’t know her. I don’t understand.”
After such imaginary discourse, the passenger in his fancy woulddig, and dig, dig—now with a spade, now with a great key, nowwith his hands—to dig this wretched creature out. Got out atlast, with earth hanging about his face and hair, he would suddenlyfan away to dust. The passenger would then start to himself, andlower the window, to get the reality of mist and rain on hischeek.
Yet even when his eyes were opened on the mist and rain, on themoving patch of light from the lamps, and the hedge at the roadsideretreating by jerks, the night shadows outside the coach would fallinto the train of the night shadows within. The real Banking-houseby Temple Bar, the real business of the past day, the real strongrooms, thereal express sent after him, and the real messagereturned, would all be there. Out of the midst of them, the ghostlyface would rise, and he would accost it again.
“Buried how long?”
“Almost eighteen years.”
“I hope you care to live?”
“I can’t say.”
Dig—dig—dig—until an impatient movement fromone of the two passengers would admonish him to pull up the window,draw his arm securely through the leathern strap, and speculateupon the two slumbering forms, until his mind lost its hold ofthem, and they again slid away into the bank and the grave.
“Buried how long?”
“Almost eighteen years.”
“You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?”
The words were still in his hearing as justspoken—distinctly in his hearing as ever spoken words hadbeen inhis life—when the weary passenger started to theconsciousness of daylight, and found that the shadows of the nightwere gone.
He lowered the window, and looked out at the rising sun. Therewas a ridge of ploughed land, with a plough upon it where ithadbeen left last night when the horses were unyoked; beyond, aquiet coppice-wood, in which many leaves of burning red and goldenyellow still remained upon the trees. Though the earth was cold andwet, the sky was clear, and the sun rose bright, placid,andbeautiful.
“Eighteen years!” said the passenger, looking at thesun. “Gracious Creator of day! To be buried alive foreighteen years!”
When the mail got successfully to Dover, in the course of theforenoon, the head drawer at the Royal George Hotel opened thecoach-door as his custom was. He did it with some flourish ofceremony, for a mail journey from London in winter was anachievement to congratulate an adventurous traveller upon.
By that time, there was only one adventuroustraveller left becongratulated: for the two others had been set down at theirrespective roadside destinations. The mildewy inside of the coach,with its damp and dirty straw, its disagreeable smell, and itsobscurity, was rather like a larger dog-kennel. Mr. Lorry, thepassenger, shaking himself out of it in chains of straw, a tangleof shaggy wrapper, flapping hat, and muddy legs, was rather like alarger sort of dog.
“There will be a packet to Calais, tomorrow,drawer?”
“Yes, sir, if the weather holdsand the wind sets tolerablefair. The tide will serve pretty nicely at about two in theafternoon, sir. Bed, sir?”
“I shall not go to bed till night; but I want a bedroom,and a barber.”
“And then breakfast, sir? Yes, sir. That way, sir, if youplease. Show Concord! Gentleman’s valise and hot water toConcord. Pull off gentleman’s boots in Concord. (You willfind a fine sea-coal fire, sir.) Fetch barber to Concord. Stirabout there, now, for Concord!”
The Concord bed-chamber being always assigned to a passenger bythe mail, and passengers by the mail being always heavily wrappedup from head to foot, the room had the odd interest for theestablishment of the Royal George, that although but one kind ofman was seen to go into it, all kinds and varieties of men came outof it. Consequently, another drawer, and two porters, and severalmaids and the landlady, were all loitering by accident at variouspoints of the road between the Concord and the coffee-room, when agentleman of sixty, formally dressed in a brown suit of clothes,pretty well worn, but very well kept, with large square cuffs andlarge flaps to the pockets, passed along on his way to hisbreakfast.
The coffee-room had no other occupant, that forenoon, than thegentleman in brown. Hisbreakfast-table was drawn before the fire,and as he sat, with its light shining on him, waiting for the meal,he sat so still, that he might have been sitting for hisportrait.
Very orderly and methodical he looked, with a hand on each knee,and a loud watch ticking a sonorous sermon under his flappedwaist-coat, as though it pitted its gravity and longevity againstthe levity and evanescence of the brisk fire. He had a good leg,and was a little vain of it, for his brown stockings fitted sleekand close,and were of a fine texture; his shoes and buckles, too,though plain, were trim. He wore an odd little sleek crisp flaxenwig, setting very close to his head: which wig, it is to bepresumed, was made of hair, but which looked far more as though itwere spun from filaments of silk or glass. His linen, though not ofa fineness in accordance with his stockings, was as white as thetops of the waves that broke upon the neighbouring beach, or thespecks of sail that glinted in the sunlight far atsea. A facehabitually suppressed and quieted, was still lighted up under thequaint wig by a pair of moist bright eyes that it must have costtheir owner, in years gone by, some pains to drill to the composedand reserved expression of Tellson’s Bank. He had ahealthycolour in his cheeks, and his face, though lined, bore fewtraces of anxiety. But, perhaps the confidential bachelor clerks inTellson’s Bank were principally occupied with the cares ofother people; and perhaps second-hand cares, like second-handclothes,come easily off and on.
Completing his resemblance to a man who was sitting for hisportrait, Mr. Lorry dropped off to sleep. The arrival of hisbreakfast roused him, and he said to the drawer, as he moved hischair to it:
“I wish accommodation prepared for a young lady who maycome here at any time to-day. She may ask for Mr. Jarvis Lorry, orshe may only ask for a gentleman from Tellson’s Bank. Pleaseto let me know.”
“Yes, sir. Tellson’s Bank in London, sir?”
“Yes, sir. We have oftentimes the honour to entertain yourgentlemen in their travelling backwards and forwards betwixt Londonand Paris, sir. A vast deal of travelling, sir, in Tellson andCompany’s House.”
“Yes. We are quite a French House, as well as an Englishone.”
“Yes, sir. Not much inthe habit of such travellingyourself, I think, sir?”
“Not of late years. It is fifteen years sincewe—since I—came last from France.”
“Indeed, sir? That was before my time here, sir. Beforeour people’s time here, sir. The George was in other hands atthat time, sir.”
“I believe so.”
“But I would hold a pretty wager, sir, that a House likeTellson and Company was flourishing, a matter of fifty, not tospeak of fifteen years ago?”
“You might treble that, and say a hundred and fifty, yetnot be far from thetruth.”
Rounding his mouth and both his eyes, as he stepped backwardfrom the table, the waiter shifted his napkin from his right arm tohis left, dropped into a comfortable attitude, and stood surveyingthe guest while he ate and drank, asfrom an observatory orwatchtower. According to the immemorial usage of waiters in allages.
When Mr. Lorry had finished his breakfast, he went out for astroll on the beach. The little narrow, crooked town of Dover hiditself away from the beach, and ranits head into the chalk cliffs,like a marine ostrich. The beach was a desert of heaps of sea andstones tumbling wildly about, and the sea did what it liked, andwhat it liked was destruction. It thundered at the town, andthundered at the cliffs, and brought the coast down, madly. The airamong the houses was of so strong a piscatory flavour that onemight have supposed sick fish went up to be dipped in it, as sickpeople went down to be dipped in the sea. A little fishing was donein the port, and a quantity of strolling about by night, andlooking seaward: particularly at those times when the tide made,and was near flood. Smalltradesmen, who did no business whatever,sometimes unaccountably realised large fortunes, and it wasremarkable that nobody inthe neighbourhood could endure alamplighter.
As the day declined into the afternoon, and the air, which hadbeen at intervals clear enough to allow the French coast to beseen, became again charged with mist and vapour, Mr. Lorry’sthoughts seemed to cloud too. When it was dark, and he sat beforethe coffee-room fire, awaiting his dinner as he had awaited hisbreakfast, his mind was busily digging, digging, digging, in thelive red coals.
A bottle of good claret after dinner does a digger in the redcoalsno harm, otherwise than as it has a tendency to throw him outof work. Mr. Lorry had been idle a long time, and had just pouredout his last glassful of wine with as complete an appearance ofsatisfaction as is ever to be found in an elderly gentleman ofafresh complexion who has got to the end of a bottle, when arattling of wheels came up the narrow street, and rumbled into theinn-yard.
He set down his glass untouched. “This isMam’selle!” said he.
In a very few minutes the waiter came in to announce that MissManette had arrived from London, and would be happy to see thegentleman from Tellson’s.
Miss Manette had taken some refreshment on the road, andrequired none then, and was extremely anxious to see the gentlemanfrom Tellson’s immediately, if it suited his pleasure andconvenience.
The gentleman from Tellson’s had nothing left for it butto empty his glass with an air of stolid desperation, settle hisodd little flaxen wig at the ears, and follow the waiter to MissManette’s apartment.It was a large, dark room, furnished in afunereal manner with black horsehair, and loaded with heavy darktables. These had been oiled and oiled, until the two tall candleson the table in the middle of the room were gloomily reflected onevery leaf; as iftheywere buried, in deep graves of black mahogany,and no light to speak of could be expected from them until theywere dug out.
The obscurity was so difficult to penetrate that Mr. Lorry,picking his way over the well-worn Turkey carpet, supposedMissManette to be, for the moment, in some adjacent room, until,having got past the two tall candles, he saw standing to receivehim by the table between them and the fire, a young lady of notmore than seventeen, in a riding-cloak, and still holding her strawtravelling-hat by its ribbon in her hand. As his eyes rested on ashort, slight, pretty figure, a quantity of golden hair, a pair ofblue eyes that met his own with an inquiring look, and a foreheadwith a singular capacity (remembering how young and smooth it was),of rifting and knitting itself into an expression that was notquite one of perplexity, or wonder, or alarm, or merely of a brightfixed attention, though it included all the fourexpressions—as his eyes rested on these things, a suddenvividlikeness passed before him, of a child whom he had held in hisarms on the passage across that very Channel, one cold time, whenthe hail drifted heavily and the sea ran high. The likeness passedaway, like a breath along the surface of the gaunt pier-glassbehind her, on the frame of which, a hospital procession of negrocupids, several headless and all cripples, were offering blackbaskets of Dead Sea fruit to black divinities of the femininegender—and he made his formal bow to Miss Manette.
“Pray take aseat, sir.” In a very clear and pleasantyoung voice; a little foreign in its accent, but a very littleindeed.
“I kiss your hand, miss,” said Mr. Lorry, with themanners of an earlier date, as he made his formal bow again, andtook his seat.
“I receiveda letter from the Bank, sir, yesterday,informing me that some intelligence—ordiscovery—”
“The word is not material, miss; either word willdo.”
“—respecting the small property of my poor father,whom I never saw—so long dead—”
Mr. Lorry moved in his chair, and cast a troubled look towardsthe hospital procession of negro cupids. As iftheyhad any help foranybody in their absurd baskets!
“—rendered it necessary that I should go to Paris,there to communicate with a gentleman ofthe Bank, so good as to bedespatched to Paris for the purpose.”
“As I was prepared to hear, sir.”
She curtseyed to him (young ladies made curtseys in those days),with a pretty desire to convey to him that she felt how much olderand wiser he was than she. He made her another bow.
“I replied to the Bank, sir, that as it was considerednecessary, by those who know, and who are so kind as to advise me,that I should go to France, and that as I am an orphan and have nofriend who could go with me,I should esteem it highly if I might bepermitted to place myself, during the journey, under that worthygentleman’s protection. The gentleman had left London, but Ithink a messenger was sent after him to beg the favour of hiswaiting for me here.”
“I washappy,” said Mr. Lorry, “to be entrustedwith the charge. I shall be more happy to execute it.”
“Sir, I thank you indeed. I thank you very gratefully. Itwas told me by the Bank that the gentleman would explain to me thedetails of the business, and thatI must prepare myself to find themof a surprising nature. I have done my best to prepare myself, andI naturally have a strong and eager interest to know what theyare.”
“Naturally,” said Mr. Lorry.“Yes—I—”
After a pause, he added, again settling the crisp flaxen wig atthe ears, “It is very difficult to begin.”
He did not begin, but, in his indecision, met her glance. Theyoung forehead lifted itself into that singularexpression—but it was pretty and characteristic, besidesbeing singular—and she raisedher hand, as if with aninvoluntary action she caught at, or stayed some passingshadow.
“Are you quite a stranger to me, sir?”
“Am I not?” Mr. Lorry opened his hands, and extendedthem outwards with an argumentative smile.
Between the eyebrows and just over the little feminine nose, theline of which was as delicate and fine as it was possible to be,the expression deepened itself as she took herseat thoughtfully inthe chair by which she had hitherto remained standing. He watchedher as she mused, and the moment she raised her eyes again, wenton:
“In your adopted country, I presume, I cannot do betterthan address you as a young English lady, Miss Manette?”
“If you please, sir.”
“Miss Manette, I am a man of business. I have a businesscharge to acquit myself of. In your reception of it, don’theed me any more than if I was a speaking machine—truly, I amnot much else. I will, with your leave, relate to you, miss, thestory of one of our customers.”
He seemed wilfully to mistake the word she hadrepeated, when headded, in a hurry, “Yes, customers; in the banking businesswe usually call our connection our customers. He was a Frenchgentleman; a scientific gentleman; a man of greatacquirements—a Doctor.”
“Not of Beauvais?”
“Why, yes, of Beauvais.Like Monsieur Manette, your father,the gentleman was of Beauvais. Like Monsieur Manette, your father,the gentleman was of repute in Paris. I had the honour of knowinghim there. Our relations were business relations, but confidential.I was at that timein our French House, and had been—oh!twenty years.”
“At that time—I may ask, at what time,sir?”
“I speak, miss, of twenty years ago. He married—anEnglish lady—and I was one of the trustees. His affairs, likethe affairs of many other French gentlemen and French families,were entirely in Tellson’s hands. In a similar way I am, or Ihave been, trustee of one kind or other for scores of ourcustomers. These are mere business relations, miss; there is nofriendship in them, no particular interest, nothinglike sentiment.I have passed from one to another, in the course of my businesslife, just as I pass from one of our customers to another in thecourse of my business day; in short, I have no feelings; I am amere machine. To go on—”
“But this is my father’s story, sir; and I begin tothink”—the curiously roughened forehead was very intentupon him—“that when I was left an orphan through mymother’s surviving my father only two years, it was you whobrought me to England. I am almost sure it was you.”
Mr. Lorry took the hesitating little hand that confidinglyadvanced to take his, and he put it with some ceremony to his lips.He then conducted the young lady straightway to her chair again,and, holding the chair-back with his left hand, and using his rightby turns to rub his chin, pull his wig at the ears, or point whathe said, stood looking down into her face while she sat looking upinto his.
“Miss Manette, itwasI. And you will see how truly I spokeof myself just now, in saying I had no feelings, and that all therelations I hold with my fellow-creatures are mere businessrelations, when you reflect that I have never seen you since. No;you have been the ward of Tellson’s House since, and I havebeen busy with the other business of Tellson’s House since.Feelings! I have no time for them, no chance of them. I pass mywhole life, miss, in turning an immense pecuniaryMangle.”
After this odd description of his daily routine of employment,Mr. Lorry flattened his flaxen wig upon his head with both hands(which was most unnecessary, for nothing could be flatter than itsshining surface was before), and resumed his former attitude.
“So far, miss (as you have remarked), this is the story ofyour regretted father. Now comes the difference. If your father hadnotdied when he did—Don’t be frightened! How youstart!”
She did, indeed, start. And she caught his wrist with both herhands.
“Pray,” said Mr. Lorry, in a soothing tone, bringinghis left hand from the back of the chair to lay it on thesupplicatory fingersthat clasped him in so violent a tremble:“pray control your agitation—a matter of business. As Iwas saying—”
Her look so discomposed him that he stopped, wandered, and begananew:
“As I was saying; if Monsieur Manette had not died; if hehad suddenly and silently disappeared; if he had been spiritedaway; if it had not been difficult to guess to what dreadful place,though no art could trace him; if he had an enemy in somecompatriot who could exercise a privilege that I in my own timehave known the boldest people afraid to speak of in a whisper,across the water there; for instance, the privilege of filling upblank forms for the consignment of any one to the oblivion of aprison for any length of time; if his wife had implored the king,the queen, thecourt, the clergy, for any tidings of him, and allquite in vain;—then the history of your father would havebeen the history of this unfortunate gentleman, the Doctor ofBeauvais.”
“I entreat you to tell me more, sir.”
“I will. I am going to. You can bearit?”
“I can bear anything but the uncertainty you leave me inat this moment.”
“You speak collectedly, and you—arecollected.That’s good!” (Though his manner was less satisfiedthan his words.) “A matter of business. Regard it as a matterof business—business that must be done. Now if thisdoctor’s wife, though a lady of great courage and spirit, hadsuffered so intensely from this cause before her little child wasborn—”
“The little child was a daughter, sir.”
“A daughter. A-a-matter of business—don’tbedistressed. Miss, if the poor lady had suffered so intenselybefore her little child was born, that she came to thedetermination of sparing the poor child the inheritance of any partof the agony she had known the pains of, by rearing her in thebelief that her father was dead—No, don’t kneel! InHeaven’s name why should you kneel to me!”
“For the truth. O dear, good, compassionate sir, for thetruth!”
“A—a matter of business. You confuse me, and how canI transact business if I am confused? Let us be clear-headed. Ifyou could kindly mention now, for instance, what nine timesninepence are, or how many shillings in twenty guineas, it would beso encouraging. I should be so much more at my ease about yourstate of mind.”
Without directly answering to thisappeal, she sat so still whenhe had very gently raised her, and the hands that had not ceased toclasp his wrists were so much more steady than they had been, thatshe communicated some reassurance to Mr. Jarvis Lorry.
“That’s right, that’s right. Courage!Business! You have business before you; useful business. MissManette, your mother took this course with you. And when shedied—I believe broken-hearted—having never slackenedher unavailing search for your father, she left you, at two yearsold, to growto be blooming, beautiful, and happy, without the darkcloud upon you of living in uncertainty whether your father soonwore his heart out in prison, or wasted there through manylingering years.”
As he said the words he looked down, with an admiringpity, onthe flowing golden hair; as if he pictured to himself that it mighthave been already tinged with grey.
“You know that your parents had no great possession, andthat what they had was secured to your mother and to you. There hasbeen no new discovery, of money, or of any other property;but—”
He felt his wrist held closer, and he stopped. The expression inthe forehead, which had so particularly attracted his notice, andwhich was now immovable, had deepened into one of pain andhorror.
“But he hasbeen—been found. He is alive. Greatlychanged, it is too probable; almost a wreck, it is possible; thoughwe will hope the best. Still, alive. Your father has been taken tothe house of an old servant in Paris, and we are going there: I, toidentify him if I can: you, to restore him to life, love, duty,rest, comfort.”
A shiver ran through her frame, and from it through his. Shesaid, in a low, distinct, awe-stricken voice, as if she were sayingit in a dream,
“I am going to see his Ghost! It will be hisGhost—not him!”
Mr. Lorry quietly chafed the hands that held his arm.“There, there, there! See now, see now! The best and theworst are known to you, now. You are well on your way to the poorwronged gentleman, and, with a fair sea voyage, and a fairlandjourney, you will be soon at his dear side.”
She repeated in the same tone, sunk to a whisper, “I havebeen free, I have been happy, yet his Ghost has never hauntedme!”
“Only one thing more,” said Mr. Lorry, laying stressupon it as a wholesome means of enforcing her attention: “hehas been found under another name; his own, long forgotten or longconcealed. It would be worse than useless now to inquire which;worse than useless to seek to know whether he has been for yearsoverlooked, or always designedlyheld prisoner. It would be worsethan useless now to make any inquiries, because it would bedangerous. Better not to mention the subject, anywhere or in anyway, and to remove him—for a while at all events—out ofFrance. Even I, safe as an Englishman, and even Tellson’s,important as they are to French credit, avoid all naming of thematter. I carry about me, not a scrap of writing openly referringto it. This is a secret service altogether. My credentials,entries, and memoranda, are all comprehended inthe one line,‘Recalled to Life;’ which may mean anything. But whatis the matter! She doesn’t notice a word! MissManette!”
Perfectly still and silent, and not even fallen back in herchair, she sat under his hand, utterly insensible; with her eyesopen and fixed upon him, and with that last expression looking asif it were carved or branded into her forehead. So close was herhold upon hisarm, that he feared to detach himself lest he shouldhurt her; therefore he called out loudly for assistancewithoutmoving.
A wild-looking woman, whom even in his agitation, Mr. Lorryobserved to be all of a red colour, and to have red hair, and to bedressed in some extraordinary tight-fitting fashion, and to have onher head a most wonderful bonnet like a Grenadier wooden measure,and good measure too, or a great Stilton cheese, came running intothe room in advance of the inn servants, and soon settled thequestion of his detachment from the poor young lady, by laying abrawny hand upon his chest, and sending him flying back against thenearest wall.
(“I really think this must be a man!” was Mr.Lorry’s breathless reflection, simultaneously with his comingagainst the wall.)
“Why, look at you all!” bawled this figure,addressing the inn servants. “Why don’t you go andfetchthings, instead of standing there staring at me? I am not so muchto look at, am I? Why don’t you go and fetch things?I’ll let you know, if you don’t bring smelling-salts,cold water, and vinegar, quick, I will.”
There was an immediate dispersal forthese restoratives, and shesoftly laid the patient on a sofa, and tended her with great skilland gentleness: calling her “my precious!” and“my bird!” and spreading her golden hair aside over hershoulders with great pride and care.
“And you in brown!”she said, indignantly turning toMr. Lorry; “couldn’t you tell her what you had to tellher, without frightening her to death? Look at her, with her prettypale face and her cold hands. Do you callthatbeing aBanker?”
Mr. Lorry was so exceedinglydisconcerted by a question so hardto answer, that he could only look on, at a distance, with muchfeebler sympathy and humility, while the strong woman, havingbanished the inn servants under the mysterious penalty of“letting them know” something not mentioned if theystayed there, staring, recovered her charge by a regular series ofgradations, and coaxed her to lay her drooping head upon hershoulder.
“I hope she will do well now,” said Mr. Lorry.
“No thanks to you in brown, if she does. My darlingpretty!”
“I hope,” said Mr. Lorry, after another pause offeeble sympathy and humility, “that you accompany MissManette to France?”
“A likely thing, too!” replied the strong woman.“If it was ever intended that I should go across salt water,do you suppose Providence would have cast my lot in anisland?”
This being another question hard to answer, Mr. Jarvis Lorrywithdrew to consider it.
Alarge cask of wine had been dropped and broken, in the street.The accident had happened in getting it out of a cart; the cask hadtumbled out with a run, the hoops had burst, and it lay on thestones just outside the door of the wine-shop, shattered like awalnut-shell.
All the people within reach had suspended their business, ortheir idleness, torun 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 thatapproached them, had dammed it into little pools; these weresurrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according toits size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two handsjoined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over theirshoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between theirfingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with littlemugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs fromwomen’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stem the wine as itran; others, directed by lookers-on up at high windows, darted hereand there, to cut off little streams of wine that started away innew directions; others devoted themselves to the sodden andlee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing the moisterwine-rotted fragments with eager relish. There was no drainage tocarry off the wine, and not only did it all get taken up, but somuch mud got taken up along with it, that there might have been ascavenger in the street, if anybody acquainted with it could havebelieved in such a miraculous presence.
A shrill sound of laughter and of amused voices—voices ofmen, women, and children—resounded in the street while thiswine game lasted. There was little roughness in the sport, and muchplayfulness. There was a special companionship in it, an observableinclination on the part of every one to join some other one, whichled, especially among the luckier or lighter-hearted, to frolicsomeembraces, drinking of healths, shaking of hands, and even joiningof hands and dancing, adozen together. When the wine was gone, andthe places where it had been most abundant were raked into agridiron-pattern by fingers, these demonstrations ceased, assuddenly as they had broken out. The man who had left his sawsticking in the firewood hewas cutting, set it in motion again; thewomen who had left on a door-step the little pot of hot ashes, atwhich she had been trying to soften the pain in her own starvedfingers and toes, or in those of her child, returned to it; menwith bare arms, matted locks, and cadaverous faces, who had emergedinto the winter light from cellars, moved away, to descend again;and a gloom gathered on the scene that appeared more natural to itthan sunshine.
The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrowstreet in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it wasspilled. It had stained many hands, too, and many faces, and manynaked feet, and many wooden shoes. The hands of the man who sawedthe wood, left red marks on the billets; and the foreheadof thewoman who nursed her baby, was stained with the stain of the oldrag she wound about her head again. Those who hadbeen greedy withthe staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about themouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of along squalid bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wallwith his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees—blood.
The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on thestreet-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon manythere.
And now that the cloud settled on Saint Antoine, which amomentary gleam had driven from his sacred countenance, thedarkness of it was heavy—cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, andwant, were the lords in waiting on the saintlypresence—nobles of great power all of them; but, mostespecially the last. Samples of a people that had undergone aterrible grinding and regrinding in the mill, and certainly not inthe fabulous mill which ground old people young, shivered at everycorner, passed in and out at every doorway, looked from everywindow, fluttered in every vestige of a garment that the windshook. The mill which had worked them down, was the mill thatgrinds young people old; the children had ancient faces and gravevoices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed intoevery furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sigh, Hunger. Itwas prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses,in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger waspatched into them withstraw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger wasrepeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood thatthe man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys,and started up from the filthy street that had no offal, among itsrefuse, of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on thebaker’s shelves, written in every small loaf of his scantystock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dogpreparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bonesamong the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger wasshred into atomics in every farthing porringer of husky chips ofpotato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.
Its abiding place was in all things fitted to it. A narrowwinding street, full of offence and stench, with other narrowwinding streets diverging, all peopled by rags and nightcaps, andall smelling of rags and nightcaps, and all visible things with abrooding look upon them that looked ill. In the hunted air of thepeople there was yet some wild-beastthought of the possibility ofturning at bay. Depressed and slinking though they were, eyes offire were not wanting among them; nor compressed lips, white withwhat they suppressed; nor foreheads knitted into the likeness ofthe gallows-rope they mused about enduring, or inflicting. Thetrade 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 meagreloaves. The people rudely pictured as drinking in the wine-shops,croaked over their scanty measures of thin wine and beer, and weregloweringly confidential together. Nothing was represented in aflourishing condition, save tools and weapons; but, thecutler’s knives and axes were sharp and bright, thesmith’s hammers were heavy, and the gunmaker’s stockwas murderous. The crippling stones of the pavement, with theirmany little reservoirs of mud and water, had no footways, but brokeoff abruptly at the doors. The kennel, tomake amends, ran down themiddle of the street—when it ran at all: which was only afterheavy rains, and then it ran, by many eccentric fits, into thehouses. Across the streets, at wide intervals, one clumsy lamp wasslung by a rope and pulley; at night,when the lamplighter had letthese down, and lighted,and hoisted them again, a feeble grove ofdim wicks swung in a sickly manner overhead, as if they were atsea. Indeed they were at sea, and the ship and crew were in perilof tempest.
For, the time wasto come, when the gaunt scarecrows of thatregion should have watched the lamplighter, in their idleness andhunger, so long, as to conceive the idea of improving on hismethod, and hauling up men by those ropes and pulleys, to flareupon the darkness of their condition. But, the time was not comeyet; and every wind that blew over France shook the rags of thescarecrows in vain, for the birds, fine of song and feather, tookno warning.
The wine-shop was a corner shop, better than most others in itsappearance and degree, and the master of the wine-shop had stoodoutside it, in a yellow waistcoat and green breeches, looking on atthe struggle for the lost wine. “It’s not myaffair,” said he, with a final shrug of the shoulders.“The people from the market did it. Let them bringanother.”
There, his eyes happening to catch the tall joker writing up hisjoke, 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 isoften theway with his tribe. It missed its mark, and completelyfailed, 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 thejest with a handful of mud, pickedup for the purpose, and smearedover it. “Why do you write in the public streets? Isthere—tell me thou—is there no other place to writesuch words in?”
In his expostulation he dropped his cleaner hand (perhapsaccidentally, perhaps not) upon the joker’sheart. The jokerrapped it with his own, took a nimble spring upward, and came downin a fantastic dancing attitude, with one of his stained shoesjerked off his foot into his hand, and held out. A joker of anextremely, not to say wolfishly practical character, he looked,under those circumstances.
“Put it on, put it on,” said the other. “Callwine, wine; and finish there.” With that advice, he wiped hissoiled hand upon the joker’s dress, such as itwas—quite deliberately, as having dirtied the hand on hisaccount; and then recrossed the road and entered the wine-shop.
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