A Tale Of Two Cities
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walls, an hour or more ago. You have a face to be remembered, and I
remember faces well. Made curious by seeing you in that connection,
and having a reason, to which you are no stranger, for associating
you with the misfortunes of a friend now very unfortunate, I walked
in your direction. I walked into the wine-shop here, close after you,
and sat near you. I had no difficulty in deducing from your unreserved
conversation, and the rumour openly going about among your admirers,
the nature of your calling. And gradually, what I had done at random,
seemed to shape itself into a purpose, Mr. Barsad."
"What purpose?" the spy asked.
"It would be troublesome, and might be dangerous, to explain in the
street. Could you favour me, in confidence, with some minutes of
your company--at the office of Tellson's Bank, for instance?"
"Under a threat?"
"Oh! Did I say that?"
"Then, why should I go there?"
"Really, Mr. Barsad, I can't say, if you can't."
"Do you mean that you won't say, sir?" the spy irresolutely asked.
"You apprehend me very clearly, Mr. Barsad. I won't."
Carton's negligent recklessness of manner came powerfully in aid of
his quickness and skill, in such a business as be had in his secret
mind, and with such a man as he had to do with. His practised eye
saw it, and made the most of it.
"Now, I told you so," said the spy, casting a reproachful look at his
sister; "if any trouble comes of this, it's your doing."
"Come, come, Mr. Barsad!" exclaimed Sydney. "Don't be
ungrateful. But for my great respect for your sister, I might not
have led up so pleasantly to a little proposal that I wish to make
for our mutual satisfaction. Do you go with me to the Bank?"
"I'll hear what you have got to say. Yes, I'll go with you."
"I propose that we first conduct your sister safely to the corner of
her own street. Let me take your arm, Miss Pross. This is not a
good city, at this time, for you to be out in, unprotected; and as
your escort knows Mr. Barsad, I will invite him to Mr. Lorry's with us.
Are we ready? Come then!"
Miss Pross recalled soon afterwards, and to the end of her life
remembered, that as she pressed her hands on Sydney's arm and looked
up in his face, imploring him to do no hurt to Solomon, there was a
braced purpose in the arm and a kind of inspiration in the eyes,
which not only contradicted his light manner, but changed and raised
the man. She was too much occupied then with fears for the brother
who so little deserved her affection, and with Sydney's friendly
reassurances, adequately to heed what she observed.
They left her at the corner of the street, and Carton led the way to
Mr. Lorry's, which was within a few minutes' walk. John Barsad, or
Solomon Pross, walked at his side.
Mr. Lorry had just finished his dinner, and was sitting before a
cheery little log or two of fire--perhaps looking into their blaze
for the picture of that younger elderly gentleman from Tellson's, who
had looked into the red coals at the Royal George at Dover, now a
good many years ago. He turned his head as they entered, and showed
the surprise with which he saw a stranger.
"Miss Pross's brother, sir," said Sydney. "Mr. Barsad."
"Barsad?" repeated the old gentleman, "Barsad? I have an association
with the name--and with the face."
"I told you you had a remarkable face, Mr. Barsad," observed Carton,
coolly. "Pray sit down."
As he took a chair himself, he supplied the link that Mr. Lorry
wanted, by saying to him with a frown, "Witness at that trial."
Mr. Lorry immediately remembered, and regarded his new visitor with
an undisguised look of abhorrence.
"Mr. Barsad has been recognised by Miss Pross as the affectionate
brother you have heard of," said Sydney, "and has acknowledged the
relationship. I pass to worse news. Darnay has been arrested again."
Struck with consternation, the old gentleman exclaimed, "What do you
tell me! I left him safe and free within these two hours, and am
about to return to him!"
"Arrested for all that. When was it done, Mr. Barsad?"
"Just now, if at all."
"Mr. Barsad is the best authority possible, sir," said Sydney, "and I
have it from Mr. Barsad's communication to a friend and brother Sheep
over a bottle of wine, that the arrest has taken place. He left the
messengers at the gate, and saw them admitted by the porter.
There is no earthly doubt that he is retaken."
Mr. Lorry's business eye read in the speaker's face that it was loss
of time to dwell upon the point. Confused, but sensible that
something might depend on his presence of mind, he commanded himself,
and was silently attentive.
"Now, I trust," said Sydney to him, "that the name and influence of
Doctor Manette may stand him in as good stead to-morrow--you said he
would be before the Tribunal again to-morrow, Mr. Barsad?--"
"Yes; I believe so."
"--In as good stead to-morrow as to-day. But it may not be so.
I own to you, I am shaken, Mr. Lorry, by Doctor Manette's not having
had the power to prevent this arrest."
"He may not have known of it beforehand," said Mr. Lorry.
"But that very circumstance would be alarming, when we remember how
identified he is with his son-in-law."
"That's true," Mr. Lorry acknowledged, with his troubled hand at his
chin, and his troubled eyes on Carton.
"In short," said Sydney, "this is a desperate time, when desperate
games are played for desperate stakes. Let the Doctor play the
winning game; I will play the losing one. No man's life here is
worth purchase. Any one carried home by the people to-day, may be
condemned tomorrow. Now, the stake I have resolved to play for, in
case of the worst, is a friend in the Conciergerie. And the friend I
purpose to myself to win, is Mr. Barsad."
"You need have good cards, sir," said the spy.
"I'll run them over. I'll see what I hold,--Mr. Lorry, you know
what a brute I am; I wish you'd give me a little brandy."
It was put before him, and he drank off a glassful--drank off another
glassful--pushed the bottle thoughtfully away.
"Mr. Barsad," he went on, in the tone of one who really was looking
over a hand at cards: "Sheep of the prisons, emissary of Republican
committees, now turnkey, now prisoner, always spy and secret
informer, so much the more valuable here for being English that an
Englishman is less open to suspicion of subornation in those
characters than a Frenchman, represents himself to his employers
under a false name. That's a very good card. Mr. Barsad, now in the
employ of the republican French government, was formerly in the
employ of the aristocratic English government, the enemy of France
and freedom. That's an excellent card. Inference clear as day in
this region of suspicion, that Mr. Barsad, still in the pay of the
aristocratic English government, is the spy of Pitt, the treacherous
foe of the Republic crouching in its bosom, the English traitor and
agent of all mischief so much spoken of and so difficult to find.
That's a card not to be beaten. Have you followed my hand, Mr. Barsad?"
"Not to understand your play," returned the spy, somewhat uneasily.
"I play my Ace, Denunciation of Mr. Barsad to the nearest Section
Committee. Look over your hand, Mr. Barsad, and see what you have.
He drew the bottle near, poured out another glassful of brandy,
and drank it off. He saw that the spy was fearful of his drinking
himself into a fit state for the immediate denunciation of him.
Seeing it, he poured out and drank another glassful.
"Look over your hand carefully, Mr. Barsad. Take time."
It was a poorer hand than he suspected. Mr. Barsad saw losing cards
in it that Sydney Carton knew nothing of. Thrown out of his
honourable employment in England, through too much unsuccessful hard
swearing there--not because he was not wanted there; our English
reasons for vaunting our superiority to secrecy and spies are of very
modern date--he knew that he had crossed the Channel, and accepted
service in France: first, as a tempter and an eavesdropper among his
own countrymen there: gradually, as a tempter and an eavesdropper
among the natives. He knew that under the overthrown government he
had been a spy upon Saint Antoine and Defarge's wine-shop; had
received from the watchful police such heads of information
concerning Doctor Manette's imprisonment, release, and history, as
should serve him for an introduction to familiar conversation with
the Defarges; and tried them on Madame Defarge, and had broken down
with them signally. He always remembered with fear and trembling,
that that terrible woman had knitted when he talked with her, and had
looked ominously at him as her fingers moved. He had since seen her,
in the Section of Saint Antoine, over and over again produce her
knitted registers, and denounce people whose lives the guillotine
then surely swallowed up. He knew, as every one employed as he was
did, that he was never safe; that flight was impossible; that he was
tied fast under the shadow of the axe; and that in spite of his
utmost tergiversation and treachery in furtherance of the reigning
terror, a word might bring it down upon him. Once denounced, and on
such grave grounds as had just now been suggested to his mind, he
foresaw that the dreadful woman of whose unrelenting character he had
seen many proofs, would produce against him that fatal register, and
would quash his last chance of life. Besides that all secret men are
men soon terrified, here were surely cards enough of one black suit,
to justify the holder in growing rather livid as he turned them over.
"You scarcely seem to like your hand," said Sydney, with the greatest
composure. "Do you play?"
"I think, sir," said the spy, in the meanest manner, as he turned to
Mr. Lorry, "I may appeal to a gentleman of your years and benevolence,
to put it to this other gentleman, so much your junior, whether he
can under any circumstances reconcile it to his station to play that
Ace of which he has spoken. I admit that _I_ am a spy, and that it
is considered a discreditable station--though it must be filled by
somebody; but this gentleman is no spy, and why should he so demean
himself as to make himself one?"
"I play my Ace, Mr. Barsad," said Carton, taking the answer on himself,
and looking at his watch, "without any scruple, in a very few minutes."
"I should have hoped, gentlemen both," said the spy, always striving
to hook Mr. Lorry into the discussion, "that your respect for my
"I could not better testify my respect for your sister than by
finally relieving her of her brother," said Sydney Carton.
"You think not, sir?"
"I have thoroughly made up my mind about it."
The smooth manner of the spy, curiously in dissonance with his
ostentatiously rough dress, and probably with his usual demeanour,
received such a check from the inscrutability of Carton,--who was a
mystery to wiser and honester men than he,--that it faltered here and
failed him. While he was at a loss, Carton said, resuming his former
air of contemplating cards:
"And indeed, now I think again, I have a strong impression that I
have another good card here, not yet enumerated. That friend and
fellow-Sheep, who spoke of himself as pasturing in the country prisons;
who was he?"
"French. You don't know him," said the spy, quickly.
"French, eh?" repeated Carton, musing, and not appearing to notice
him at all, though he echoed his word. "Well; he may be."
"Is, I assure you," said the spy; "though it's not important."
"Though it's not important," repeated Carton, in the same mechanical
way--"though it's not important--No, it's not important. No. Yet I
know the face."
"I think not. I am sure not. It can't be," said the spy.
"It-can't-be," muttered Sydney Carton, retrospectively, and idling
his glass (which fortunately was a small one) again. "Can't-be.
Spoke good French. Yet like a foreigner, I thought?"
"Provincial," said the spy.
"No. Foreign!" cried Carton, striking his open hand on the table, as
a light broke clearly on his mind. "Cly! Disguised, but the same man.
We had that man before us at the Old Bailey."