A Tale Of Two Cities
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looking up at his face in the interchange of the first few
common-places, she observed a change in it.
"I fear you are not well, Mr. Carton!"
"No. But the life I lead, Miss Manette, is not conducive to health.
What is to be expected of, or by, such profligates?"
"Is it not--forgive me; I have begun the question on my lips--a pity
to live no better life?"
"God knows it is a shame!"
"Then why not change it?"
Looking gently at him again, she was surprised and saddened to see
that there were tears in his eyes. There were tears in his voice too,
as he answered:
"It is too late for that. I shall never be better than I am.
I shall sink lower, and be worse."
He leaned an elbow on her table, and covered his eyes with his hand.
The table trembled in the silence that followed.
She had never seen him softened, and was much distressed. He knew
her to be so, without looking at her, and said:
"Pray forgive me, Miss Manette. I break down before the knowledge
of what I want to say to you. Will you hear me?"
"If it will do you any good, Mr. Carton, if it would make you happier,
it would make me very glad!"
"God bless you for your sweet compassion!"
He unshaded his face after a little while, and spoke steadily.
"Don't be afraid to hear me. Don't shrink from anything I say.
I am like one who died young. All my life might have been."
"No, Mr. Carton. I am sure that the best part of it might still be;
I am sure that you might be much, much worthier of yourself."
"Say of you, Miss Manette, and although I know better--although
in the mystery of my own wretched heart I know better--I shall
never forget it!"
She was pale and trembling. He came to her relief with a fixed
despair of himself which made the interview unlike any other
that could have been holden.
"If it had been possible, Miss Manette, that you could have returned
the love of the man you see before yourself--flung away, wasted,
drunken, poor creature of misuse as you know him to be--he would have
been conscious this day and hour, in spite of his happiness, that he
would bring you to misery, bring you to sorrow and repentance, blight
you, disgrace you, pull you down with him. I know very well that you
can have no tenderness for me; I ask for none; I am even thankful
that it cannot be."
"Without it, can I not save you, Mr. Carton? Can I not recall you--
forgive me again!--to a better course? Can I in no way repay your
confidence? I know this is a confidence," she modestly said, after a
little hesitation, and in earnest tears, "I know you would say this to
no one else. Can I turn it to no good account for yourself, Mr. Carton?"
He shook his head.
"To none. No, Miss Manette, to none. If you will hear me through a
very little more, all you can ever do for me is done. I wish you to
know that you have been the last dream of my soul. In my degradation
I have not been so degraded but that the sight of you with your father,
and of this home made such a home by you, has stirred old shadows that
I thought had died out of me. Since I knew you, I have been troubled
by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have
heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were
silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning
anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned
fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the
sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it."
"Will nothing of it remain? O Mr. Carton, think again! Try again!"
"No, Miss Manette; all through it, I have known myself to be quite
undeserving. And yet I have had the weakness, and have still the
weakness, to wish you to know with what a sudden mastery you kindled me,
heap of ashes that I am, into fire--a fire, however, inseparable
in its nature from myself, quickening nothing, lighting nothing,
doing no service, idly burning away."
"Since it is my misfortune, Mr. Carton, to have made you more unhappy
than you were before you knew me--"
"Don't say that, Miss Manette, for you would have reclaimed me,
if anything could. you will not be the cause of my becoming worse."
"Since the state of your mind that you describe, is, at all events,
attributable to some influence of mine--this is what I mean,
if I can make it plain--can I use no influence to serve you?
Have I no power for good, with you, at all?"
"The utmost good that I am capable of now, Miss Manette, I have come
here to realise. Let me carry through the rest of my misdirected life,
the remembrance that I opened my heart to you, last of all the world;
and that there was something left in me at this time which you could
deplore and pity."
"Which I entreated you to believe, again and again, most fervently,
with all my heart, was capable of better things, Mr. Carton!"
"Entreat me to believe it no more, Miss Manette. I have proved myself,
and I know better. I distress you; I draw fast to an end. Will you let
me believe, when I recall this day, that the last confidence of my life
was reposed in your pure and innocent breast, and that it lies there
alone, and will be shared by no one?"
"If that will be a consolation to you, yes."
"Not even by the dearest one ever to be known to you?"
"Mr. Carton," she answered, after an agitated pause, "the secret is
yours, not mine; and I promise to respect it."
"Thank you. And again, God bless you."
He put her hand to his lips, and moved towards the door.
"Be under no apprehension, Miss Manette, of my ever resuming this
conversation by so much as a passing word. I will never refer to it
again. If I were dead, that could not be surer than it is henceforth.
In the hour of my death, I shall hold sacred the one good remembrance--
and shall thank and bless you for it--that my last avowal of myself was
made to you, and that my name, and faults, and miseries were gently
carried in your heart. May it otherwise be light and happy!"
He was so unlike what he had ever shown himself to be, and it was
so sad to think how much he had thrown away, and how much he every
day kept down and perverted, that Lucie Manette wept mournfully for
him as he stood looking back at her.
"Be comforted!" he said, "I am not worth such feeling, Miss Manette.
An hour or two hence, and the low companions and low habits that I scorn
but yield to, will render me less worth such tears as those, than any
wretch who creeps along the streets. Be comforted! But, within myself,
I shall always be, towards you, what I am now, though outwardly I shall
be what you have heretofore seen me. The last supplication but one
I make to you, is, that you will believe this of me."
"I will, Mr. Carton."
"My last supplication of all, is this; and with it, I will relieve
you of a visitor with whom I well know you have nothing in unison,
and between whom and you there is an impassable space. It is useless
to say it, I know, but it rises out of my soul. For you, and for any
dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better
kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it,
I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you.
Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere
in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long
in coming, when new ties will be formed about you--ties that will bind
you yet more tenderly and strongly to the home you so adorn--the dearest
ties that will ever grace and gladden you. O Miss Manette, when the
little picture of a happy father's face looks up in yours, when you
see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet, think
now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep
a life you love beside you!"
He said, "Farewell!" said a last "God bless you!" and left her.
The Honest Tradesman
To the eyes of Mr. Jeremiah Cruncher, sitting on his stool in
Fleet-street with his grisly urchin beside him, a vast number and
variety of objects in movement were every day presented. Who could
sit upon anything in Fleet-street during the busy hours of the day,
and not be dazed and deafened by two immense processions, one ever
tending westward with the sun, the other ever tending eastward
from the sun, both ever tending to the plains beyond the range of red
and purple where the sun goes down!
With his straw in his mouth, Mr. Cruncher sat watching the two streams,
like the heathen rustic who has for several centuries been on duty
watching one stream--saving that Jerry had no expectation of their
ever running dry. Nor would it have been an expectation of a hopeful
kind, since a small part of his income was derived from the pilotage
of timid women (mostly of a full habit and past the middle term of life)
from Tellson's side of the tides to the opposite shore. Brief as such
companionship was in every separate instance, Mr. Cruncher never
failed to become so interested in the lady as to express a strong desire
to have the honour of drinking her very good health. And it was from
the gifts bestowed upon him towards the execution of this benevolent
purpose, that he recruited his finances, as just now observed.
Time was, when a poet sat upon a stool in a public place, and mused
in the sight of men. Mr. Cruncher, sitting on a stool in a public place,
but not being a poet, mused as little as possible, and looked about him.
It fell out that he was thus engaged in a season when crowds were few,
and belated women few, and when his affairs in general were so
unprosperous as to awaken a strong suspicion in his breast that
Mrs. Cruncher must have been "flopping" in some pointed manner, when
an unusual concourse pouring down Fleet-street westward, attracted his
attention. Looking that way, Mr. Cruncher made out that some kind of
funeral was coming along, and that there was popular objection to this
funeral, which engendered uproar.
"Young Jerry," said Mr. Cruncher, turning to his offspring,
"it's a buryin'."
"Hooroar, father!" cried Young Jerry.
The young gentleman uttered this exultant sound with mysterious
significance. The elder gentleman took the cry so ill, that he
watched his opportunity, and smote the young gentleman on the ear.
"What d'ye mean? What are you hooroaring at? What do you want to
conwey to your own father, you young Rip? This boy is a getting
too many for ME!" said Mr. Cruncher, surveying him. "Him and
his hooroars! Don't let me hear no more of you, or you shall feel
some more of me. D'ye hear?"
"I warn't doing no harm," Young Jerry protested, rubbing his cheek.
"Drop it then," said Mr. Cruncher; "I won't have none of YOUR
no harms. Get a top of that there seat, and look at the crowd."
His son obeyed, and the crowd approached; they were bawling and hissing
round a dingy hearse and dingy mourning coach, in which mourning coach
there was only one mourner, dressed in the dingy trappings that were
considered essential to the dignity of the position. The position
appeared by no means to please him, however, with an increasing rabble
surrounding the coach, deriding him, making grimaces at him,
and incessantly groaning and calling out: "Yah! Spies! Tst! Yaha!
Spies!" with many compliments too numerous and forcible to repeat.
Funerals had at all times a remarkable attraction for Mr. Cruncher;
he always pricked up his senses, and became excited, when a funeral
passed Tellson's. Naturally, therefore, a funeral with this uncommon
attendance excited him greatly, and he asked of the first man who ran
"What is it, brother? What's it about?"
"_I_ don't know," said the man. "Spies! Yaha! Tst! Spies!"
He asked another man. "Who is it?"
"_I_ don't know," returned the man, clapping his hands to his mouth
nevertheless, and vociferating in a surprising heat and with the
greatest ardour, "Spies! Yaha! Tst, tst! Spi--ies!"
At length, a person better informed on the merits of the case,
tumbled against him, and from this person he learned that the funeral