A Tale Of Two Cities
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"Yes," said the Marquis. "You are fatigued. Good night!"
As he bent his head in his most courtly manner, there was a secrecy
in his smiling face, and he conveyed an air of mystery to those
words, which struck the eyes and ears of his nephew forcibly. At the
same time, the thin straight lines of the setting of the eyes, and
the thin straight lips, and the markings in the nose, curved with a
sarcasm that looked handsomely diabolic.
"Yes," repeated the Marquis. "A Doctor with a daughter. Yes.
So commences the new philosophy! You are fatigued. Good night!"
It would have been of as much avail to interrogate any stone face
outside the chateau as to interrogate that face of his. The nephew
looked at him, in vain, in passing on to the door.
"Good night!" said the uncle. "I look to the pleasure of seeing you
again in the morning. Good repose! Light Monsieur my nephew to his
chamber there!--And burn Monsieur my nephew in his bed, if you will,"
he added to himself, before he rang his little ben again, and summoned
his valet to his own bedroom.
The valet come and gone, Monsieur the Marquis walked to and fro in
his loose chamber-robe, to prepare himself gently for sleep, that hot
still night. Rustling about the room, his softly-slippered feet
making no noise on the floor, he moved like a refined tiger:--looked
like some enchanted marquis of the impenitently wicked sort, in story,
whose periodical change into tiger form was either just going off, or
just coming on.
He moved from end to end of his voluptuous bedroom, looking again at
the scraps of the day's journey that came unbidden into his mind; the
slow toil up the hill at sunset, the setting sun, the descent, the
mill, the prison on the crag, the little village in the hollow, the
peasants at the fountain, and the mender of roads with his blue cap
pointing out the chain under the carriage. That fountain suggested
the Paris fountain, the little bundle lying on the step, the women
bending over it, and the tall man with his arms up, crying, "Dead!"
"I am cool now," said Monsieur the Marquis, "and may go to bed."
So, leaving only one light burning on the large hearth, he let his
thin gauze curtains fa]J around him, and heard the night break its
silence with a long sigh as he composed himself to sleep.
The stone faces on the outer wails stared blindly at the black night
for three heavy hours; for three heavy hours, the horses in the
stables rattled at their racks, the dogs barked, and the owl made a
noise with very little resemblance in it to the noise conventionally
assigned to the owl by men-poets. But it is the obstinate custom of
such creatures hardly ever to say what is set down for them.
For three heavy hours, the stone faces of the chateau, lion and
human, stared blindly at the night. Dead darkness lay on all the
landscape, dead darkness added its own hush to the hushing dust on
all the roads. The burial-place had got to the pass that its little
heaps of poor grass were undistinguishable from one another; the
figure on the Cross might have come down, for anything that could be
seen of it. In the village, taxers and taxed were fast asleep.
Dreaming, perhaps, of banquets, as the starved usually do, and of
ease and rest, as the driven slave and the yoked ox may, its lean
inhabitants slept soundly, and were fed and freed.
The fountain in the village flowed unseen and unheard, and the
fountain at the chateau dropped unseen and unheard--both melting
away, like the minutes that were falling from the spring of Time--
through three dark hours. Then, the grey water of both began to be
ghostly in the light, and the eyes of the stone faces of the chateau
Lighter and lighter, until at last the sun touched the tops of the
still trees, and poured its radiance over the hill. In the glow,
the water of the chateau fountain seemed to turn to blood, and the
stone faces crimsoned. The carol of the birds was loud and high,
and, on the weather-beaten sill of the great window of the bed-
chamber of Monsieur the Marquis, one little bird sang its sweetest
song with all its might. At this, the nearest stone face seemed
to stare amazed, and, with open mouth and dropped under-jaw, looked
Now, the sun was full up, and movement began in the village.
Casement windows opened, crazy doors were unbarred, and people came
forth shivering--chilled, as yet, by the new sweet air. Then began
the rarely lightened toil of the day among the village population.
Some, to the fountain; some, to the fields; men and women here, to
dig and delve; men and women there, to see to the poor live stock,
and lead the bony cows out, to such pasture as could be found by the
roadside. In the church and at the Cross, a kneeling figure or two;
attendant on the latter prayers, the led cow, trying for a breakfast
among the weeds at its foot.
The chateau awoke later, as became its quality, but awoke gradually
and surely. First, the lonely boar-spears and knives of the chase
had been reddened as of old; then, had gleamed trenchant in the
morning sunshine; now, doors and windows were thrown open, horses
in their stables looked round over their shoulders at the light and
freshness pouring in at doorways, leaves sparkled and rustled at
iron-grated windows, dogs pulled hard at their chains, and reared
impatient to be loosed.
All these trivial incidents belonged to the routine of life, and the
return of morning. Surely, not so the ringing of the great bell of
the chateau, nor the running up and down the stairs; nor the hurried
figures on the terrace; nor the booting and tramping here and there
and everywhere, nor the quick saddling of horses and riding away?
What winds conveyed this hurry to the grizzled mender of roads,
already at work on the hill-top beyond the village, with his day's
dinner (not much to carry) lying in a bundle that it was worth no
crow's while to peck at, on a heap of stones? Had the birds, carrying
some grains of it to a distance, dropped one over him as they sow
chance seeds? Whether or no, the mender of roads ran, on the sultry
morning, as if for his life, down the hill, knee-high in dust, and
never stopped till he got to the fountain.
All the people of the village were at the fountain, standing about in
their depressed manner, and whispering low, but showing no other
emotions than grim curiosity and surprise. The led cows, hastily
brought in and tethered to anything that would hold them, were looking
stupidly on, or lying down chewing the cud of nothing particularly
repaying their trouble, which they had picked up in their interrupted
saunter. Some of the people of the chateau, and some of those of the
posting-house, and all the taxing authorities, were armed more or less,
and were crowded on the other side of the little street in a
purposeless way, that was highly fraught with nothing. Already,
the mender of roads had penetrated into the midst of a group of fifty
particular friends, and was smiting himself in the breast with his
blue cap. What did all this portend, and what portended the swift
hoisting-up of Monsieur Gabelle behind a servant on horseback, and
the conveying away of the said Gabelle (double-laden though the horse
was), at a gallop, like a new version of the German ballad of Leonora?
It portended that there was one stone face too many, up at the chateau.
The Gorgon had surveyed the building again in the night, and had
added the one stone face wanting; the stone face for which it had
waited through about two hundred years.
It lay back on the pillow of Monsieur the Marquis. It was like a
fine mask, suddenly startled, made angry, and petrified. Driven home
into the heart of the stone figure attached to it, was a knife.
Round its hilt was a frill of paper, on which was scrawled:
"Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques."
More months, to the number of twelve, had come and gone, and Mr.
Charles Darnay was established in England as a higher teacher of the
French language who was conversant with French literature. In this
age, he would have been a Professor; in that age, he was a Tutor.
He read with young men who could find any leisure and interest for
the study of a living tongue spoken all over the world, and he
cultivated a taste for its stores of knowledge and fancy. He could
write of them, besides, in sound English, and render them into sound
English. Such masters were not at that time easily found; Princes
that had been, and Kings that were to be, were not yet of the Teacher
class, and no ruined nobility had dropped out of Tellson's ledgers,
to turn cooks and carpenters. As a tutor, whose attainments made the
student's way unusually pleasant and profitable, and as an elegant
translator who brought something to his work besides mere dictionary
knowledge, young Mr. Darnay soon became known and encouraged. He was
well acquainted, more-over, with the circumstances of his country,
and those were of ever-growing interest. So, with great perseverance
and untiring industry, he prospered.
In London, he had expected neither to walk on pavements of gold, nor
to lie on beds of roses; if he had had any such exalted expectation,
he would not have prospered. He had expected labour, and he found it,
and did it and made the best of it. In this, his prosperity consisted.
A certain portion of his time was passed at Cambridge, where he read
with undergraduates as a sort of tolerated smuggler who drove a
contraband trade in European languages, instead of conveying Greek
and Latin through the Custom-house. The rest of his time he passed
Now, from the days when it was always summer in Eden, to these days
when it is mostly winter in fallen latitudes, the world of a man has
invariably gone one way--Charles Darnay's way--the way of the love of
He had loved Lucie Manette from the hour of his danger. He had never
heard a sound so sweet and dear as the sound of her compassionate
voice; he had never seen a face so tenderly beautiful, as hers when
it was confronted with his own on the edge of the grave that had been
dug for him. But, he had not yet spoken to her on the subject;
the assassination at the deserted chateau far away beyond the heaving
water and the long, tong, dusty roads--the solid stone chateau which
had itself become the mere mist of a dream--had been done a year,
and he had never yet, by so much as a single spoken word, disclosed
to her the state of his heart.
That he had his reasons for this, he knew full well. It was again a
summer day when, lately arrived in London from his college occupation,
he turned into the quiet corner in Soho, bent on seeking an opportunity
of opening his mind to Doctor Manette. It was the close of the
summer day, and he knew Lucie to be out with Miss Pross.
He found the Doctor reading in his arm-chair at a window. The energy
which had at once supported him under his old sufferings and aggravated
their sharpness, had been gradually restored to him. He was now a
very energetic man indeed, with great firmness of purpose, strength
of resolution, and vigour of action. In his recovered energy he was
sometimes a little fitful and sudden, as he had at first been in the
exercise of his other recovered faculties; but, this had never been
frequently observable, and had grown more and more rare.
He studied much, slept little, sustained a great deal of fatigue with
ease, and was equably cheerful. To him, now entered Charles Darnay,
at sight of whom he laid aside his book and held out his hand.
"Charles Darnay! I rejoice to see you. We have been counting on your
return these three or four days past. Mr. Stryver and Sydney Carton
were both here yesterday, and both made you out to be more than due."
"I am obliged to them for their interest in the matter," he answered,
a little coldly as to them, though very warmly as to the Doctor.
"Is well," said the Doctor, as he stopped short, "and your return
will delight us all. She has gone out on some household matters,
but will soon be home."
"Doctor Manette, I knew she was from home. I took the opportunity of
her being from home, to beg to speak to you."
There was a blank silence.
"Yes?" said the Doctor, with evident constraint. "Bring your chair here,
and speak on."