A Tale Of Two Cities
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 Next page
"Never imagine anything. Have no imagination at all."
"I stand corrected; do you suppose--you go so far as to suppose, sometimes?"
"Now and then," said Miss Pross.
"Do you suppose," Mr. Lorry went on, with a laughing twinkle in his
bright eye, as it looked kindly at her, "that Doctor Manette has any
theory of his own, preserved through all those years, relative to the
cause of his being so oppressed; perhaps, even to the name of his
"I don't suppose anything about it but what Ladybird tells me."
"And that is--?"
"That she thinks he has."
"Now don't be angry at my asking all these questions; because I am a
mere dull man of business, and you are a woman of business."
"Dull?" Miss Pross inquired, with placidity.
Rather wishing his modest adjective away, Mr. Lorry replied, "No, no,
no. Surely not. To return to business:--Is it not remarkable that
Doctor Manette, unquestionably innocent of any crane as we are all
well assured he is, should never touch upon that question? I will not
say with me, though he had business relations with me many years ago,
and we are now intimate; I will say with the fair daughter to whom he
is so devotedly attached, and who is so devotedly attached to him?
Believe me, Miss Pross, I don't approach the topic with you, out of
curiosity, but out of zealous interest."
"Well! To the best of my understanding, and bad's the best,
you'll tell me," said Miss Pross, softened by the tone of the apology,
"he is afraid of the whole subject."
"It's plain enough, I should think, why he may be. It's a dreadful
remembrance. Besides that, his loss of himself grew out of it.
Not knowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may
never feel certain of not losing himself again. That alone wouldn't
make the subject pleasant, I should think."
It was a profounder remark than Mr. Lorry had looked for. "True,"
said he, "and fearful to reflect upon. Yet, a doubt lurks in my mind,
Miss Pross, whether it is good for Doctor Manette to have that
suppression always shut up within him. Indeed, it is this doubt and
the uneasiness it sometimes causes me that has led me to our present
"Can't be helped," said Miss Pross, shaking her head. "Touch that
string, and he instantly changes for the worse. Better leave it
alone. In short, must leave it alone, like or no like. Sometimes,
he gets up in the dead of the night, and will be heard, by us
overhead there, walking up and down, walking up and down, in his room.
Ladybird has learnt to know then that his mind is walking up and
down, walking up and down, in his old prison. She hurries to him,
and they go on together, walking up and down, walking up and down,
until he is composed. But he never says a word of the true reason of
his restlessness, to her, and she finds it best not to hint at it to him.
In silence they go walking up and down together, walking up and down
together, till her love and company have brought him to himself."
Notwithstanding Miss Pross's denial of her own imagination, there was
a perception of the pain of being monotonously haunted by one sad idea,
in her repetition of the phrase, walking up and down, which testified
to her possessing such a thing.
The corner has been mentioned as a wonderful corner for echoes;
it had begun to echo so resoundingly to the tread of coming feet,
that it seemed as though the very mention of that weary pacing to and
fro had set it going.
"Here they are!" said Miss Pross, rising to break up the conference;
"and now we shall have hundreds of people pretty soon!"
It was such a curious corner in its acoustical properties, such a
peculiar Ear of a place, that as Mr. Lorry stood at the open window,
looking for the father and daughter whose steps he heard, he fancied
they would never approach. Not only would the echoes die away,
as though the steps had gone; but, echoes of other steps that never
came would be heard in their stead, and would die away for good when
they seemed close at hand. However, father and daughter did at last
appear, and Miss Pross was ready at the street door to receive them.
Miss Pross was a pleasant sight, albeit wild, and red, and grim, taking
off her darling's bonnet when she came up-stairs, and touching it up
with the ends of her handkerchief, and blowing the dust off it, and
folding her mantle ready for laying by, and smoothing her rich hair
with as much pride as she could possibly have taken in her own hair
if she had been the vainest and handsomest of women. Her darling was
a pleasant sight too, embracing her and thanking her, and protesting
against her taking so much trouble for her--which last she only dared
to do playfully, or Miss Pross, sorely hurt, would have retired to
her own chamber and cried. The Doctor was a pleasant sight too,
looking on at them, and telling Miss Pross how she spoilt Lucie, in
accents and with eyes that had as much spoiling in them as Miss Pross
had, and would have had more if it were possible. Mr. Lorry was a
pleasant sight too, beaming at all this in his little wig, and thanking
his bachelor stars for having lighted him in his declining years to a
Home. But, no Hundreds of people came to see the sights, and Mr. Lorry
looked in vain for the fulfilment of Miss Pross's prediction.
Dinner-time, and still no Hundreds of people. In the arrangements of
the little household, Miss Pross took charge of the lower regions,
and always acquitted herself marvellously. Her dinners, of a very
modest quality, were so well cooked and so well served, and so neat
in their contrivances, half English and half French, that nothing
could be better. Miss Pross's friendship being of the thoroughly
practical kind, she had ravaged Soho and the adjacent provinces, in
search of impoverished French, who, tempted by shillings and half-
crowns, would impart culinary mysteries to her. From these decayed
sons and daughters of Gaul, she had acquired such wonderful arts,
that the woman and girl who formed the staff of domestics regarded
her as quite a Sorceress, or Cinderella's Godmother: who would send
out for a fowl, a rabbit, a vegetable or two from the garden, and
change them into anything she pleased.
On Sundays, Miss Pross dined at the Doctor's table, but on other days
persisted in taking her meals at unknown periods, either in the lower
regions, or in her own room on the second floor--a blue chamber,
to which no one but her Ladybird ever gained admittance. On this
occasion, Miss Pross, responding to Ladybird's pleasant face and
pleasant efforts to please her, unbent exceedingly; so the dinner was
very pleasant, too.
It was an oppressive day, and, after dinner, Lucie proposed that the
wine should be carried out under the plane-tree, and they should sit
there in the air. As everything turned upon her, and revolved about
her, they went out under the plane-tree, and she carried the wine
down for the special benefit of Mr. Lorry. She had installed herself,
some time before, as Mr. Lorry's cup-bearer; and while they sat under
the plane-tree, talking, she kept his glass replenished. Mysterious
backs and ends of houses peeped at them as they talked, and the
plane-tree whispered to them in its own way above their heads.
Still, the Hundreds of people did not present themselves. Mr. Darnay
presented himself while they were sitting under the plane-tree,
but he was only One.
Doctor Manette received him kindly, and so did Lucie. But, Miss
Pross suddenly became afflicted with a twitching in the head and
body, and retired into the house. She was not unfrequently the
victim of this disorder, and she called it, in familiar conversation,
"a fit of the jerks."
The Doctor was in his best condition, and looked specially young.
The resemblance between him and Lucie was very strong at such times,
and as they sat side by side, she leaning on his shoulder, and he
resting his arm on the back of her chair, it was very agreeable to
trace the likeness.
He had been talking all day, on many subjects, and with unusual vivacity.
"Pray, Doctor Manette," said Mr. Darnay, as they sat under the
plane-tree--and he said it in the natural pursuit of the topic in
hand, which happened to be the old buildings of London--"have you
seen much of the Tower?"
"Lucie and I have been there; but only casually. We have seen enough
of it, to know that it teems with interest; little more."
"_I_ have been there, as you remember," said Darnay, with a smile,
though reddening a little angrily, "in another character, and not in
a character that gives facilities for seeing much of it. They told
me a curious thing when I was there."
"What was that?" Lucie asked.
"In making some alterations, the workmen came upon an old dungeon,
which had been, for many years, built up and forgotten. Every stone
of its inner wall was covered by inscriptions which had been carved
by prisoners--dates, names, complaints, and prayers. Upon a corner
stone in an angle of the wall, one prisoner, who seemed to have gone
to execution, had cut as his last work, three letters. They were
done with some very poor instrument, and hurriedly, with an unsteady
hand. At first, they were read as D. I. C.; but, on being more
carefully examined, the last letter was found to be G. There was no
record or legend of any prisoner with those initials, and many
fruitless guesses were made what the name could have been.
At length, it was suggested that the letters were not initials, but
the complete word, DiG. The floor was examined very carefully under
the inscription, and, in the earth beneath a stone, or tile, or some
fragment of paving, were found the ashes of a paper, mingled with the
ashes of a small leathern case or bag. What the unknown prisoner had
written will never be read, but he had written something, and hidden
it away to keep it from the gaoler."
"My father," exclaimed Lucie, "you are ill!"
He had suddenly started up, with his hand to his head. His manner
and his look quite terrified them all.
"No, my dear, not ill. There are large drops of rain falling,
and they made me start. We had better go in."
He recovered himself almost instantly. Rain was really falling in
large drops, and he showed the back of his hand with rain-drops on it.
But, he said not a single word in reference to the discovery that had
been told of, and, as they went into the house, the business eye of
Mr. Lorry either detected, or fancied it detected, on his face, as it
turned towards Charles Darnay, the same singular look that had been
upon it when it turned towards him in the passages of the Court House.
He recovered himself so quickly, however, that Mr. Lorry had doubts
of his business eye. The arm of the golden giant in the hall was not
more steady than he was, when he stopped under it to remark to them
that he was not yet proof against slight surprises (if he ever would
be), and that the rain had startled him.
Tea-time, and Miss Pross making tea, with another fit of the jerks
upon her, and yet no Hundreds of people. Mr. Carton had lounged in,
but he made only Two.
The night was so very sultry, that although they sat with doors and
windows open, they were overpowered by heat. When the tea-table was
done with, they all moved to one of the windows, and looked out into
the heavy twilight. Lucie sat by her father; Darnay sat beside her;
Carton leaned against a window. The curtains were long and white,
and some of the thunder-gusts that whirled into the corner, caught
them up to the ceiling, and waved them like spectral wings.
"The rain-drops are still falling, large, heavy, and few," said
Doctor Manette. "It comes slowly."
"It comes surely," said Carton.
They spoke low, as people watching and waiting mostly do; as people
in a dark room, watching and waiting for Lightning, always do.
There was a great hurry in the streets of people speeding away to get
shelter before the storm broke; the wonderful corner for echoes
resounded with the echoes of footsteps coming and going, yet not a
footstep was there.
"A multitude of people, and yet a solitude!" said Darnay, when they
had listened for a while.
"Is it not impressive, Mr. Darnay?" asked Lucie. "Sometimes, I have
sat here of an evening, until I have fancied--but even the shade of a
foolish fancy makes me shudder to-night, when all is so black and