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
hand.--Where is the loft window? It was somewhere here?'
"The room was darkening to his sight; the world was narrowing around
him. I glanced about me, and saw that the hay and straw were
trampled over the floor, as if there had been a struggle.
"`She heard me, and ran in. I told her not to come near us till he
was dead. He came in and first tossed me some pieces of money; then
struck at me with a whip. But I, though a common dog, so struck at
him as to make him draw. Let him break into as many pieces as he
will, the sword that he stained with my common blood; he drew to
defend himself--thrust at me with all his skill for his life.'
"My glance had fallen, but a few moments before, on the fragments of
a broken sword, lying among the hay. That weapon was a gentleman's.
In another place, lay an old sword that seemed to have been a soldier's.
"`Now, lift me up, Doctor; lift me up. Where is he?'
"`He is not here,' I said, supporting the boy, and thinking that he
referred to the brother.
"`He! Proud as these nobles are, he is afraid to see me. Where is
the man who was here? turn my face to him.'
"I did so, raising the boy's head against my knee. But, invested for
the moment with extraordinary power, he raised himself completely:
obliging me to rise too, or I could not have still supported him.
"`Marquis,' said the boy, turned to him with his eyes opened wide,
and his right hand raised, `in the days when all these things are to
be answered for, I summon you and yours, to the last of your bad race,
to answer for them. I mark this cross of blood upon you, as a sign
that I do it. In the days when all these things are to be answered
for, I summon your brother, the worst of the bad race, to answer for
them separately. I mark this cross of blood upon him, as a sign that
I do it.'
"Twice, he put his hand to the wound in his breast, and with his
forefinger drew a cross in the air. He stood for an instant with the
finger yet raised, and as it dropped, he dropped with it, and I laid
him down dead.
* * * *
"When I returned to the bedside of the young woman, I found her
raving in precisely the same order of continuity. I knew that this
might last for many hours, and that it would probably end in the
silence of the grave.
"I repeated the medicines I had given her, and I sat at the side of
the bed until the night was far advanced. She never abated the
piercing quality of her shrieks, never stumbled in the distinctness
or the order of her words. They were always `My husband, my father,
and my brother! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine,
ten, eleven, twelve. Hush!'
"This lasted twenty-six hours from the time when I first saw her. I
had come and gone twice, and was again sitting by her, when she began
to falter. I did what little could be done to assist that opportunity,
and by-and-bye she sank into a lethargy, and lay like the dead.
"It was as if the wind and rain had lulled at last, after a long and
fearful storm. I released her arms, and called the woman to assist
me to compose her figure and the dress she had tom. It was then that
I knew her condition to be that of one in whom the first expectations
of being a mother have arisen; and it was then that I lost the little
hope I had had of her.
"`Is she dead?' asked the Marquis, whom I will still describe as the
elder brother, coming booted into the room from his horse.
"`Not dead,' said I; `but like to die.'
"`What strength there is in these common bodies!' he said, looking
down at her with some curiosity.
"`There is prodigious strength,' I answered him, `in sorrow and despair.'
"He first laughed at my words, and then frowned at them. He moved a
chair with his foot near to mine, ordered the woman away, and said in
a subdued voice,
"`Doctor, finding my brother in this difficulty with these hinds,
I recommended that your aid should be invited. Your reputation is
high, and, as a young man with your fortune to make, you are probably
mindful of your interest. The things that you see here, are things
to be seen, and not spoken of.'
"I listened to the patient's breathing, and avoided answering.
"`Do you honour me with your attention, Doctor?'
"`Monsieur,' said I, `in my profession, the communications of
patients are always received in confidence.' I was guarded in my
answer, for I was troubled in my mind with what I had heard and seen.
"Her breathing was so difficult to trace, that I carefully tried the
pulse and the heart. There was life, and no more. Looking round as
I resumed my seat, I found both the brothers intent upon me.
* * * *
"I write with so much difficulty, the cold is so severe, I am so
fearful of being detected and consigned to an underground cell and
total darkness, that I must abridge this narrative. There is no
confusion or failure in my memory; it can recall, and could detail,
every word that was ever spoken between me and those brothers.
"She lingered for a week. Towards the last, I could understand some
few syllables that she said to me, by placing my ear close to her lips.
She asked me where she was, and I told her; who I was, and I told her.
It was in vain that I asked her for her family name. She faintly
shook her head upon the pillow, and kept her secret, as the boy had done.
"I had no opportunity of asking her any question, until I had told
the brothers she was sinking fast, and could not live another day.
Until then, though no one was ever presented to her consciousness
save the woman and myself, one or other of them had always jealously
sat behind the curtain at the head of the bed when I was there.
But when it came to that, they seemed careless what communication I
might hold with her; as if--the thought passed through my mind--I
were dying too.
"I always observed that their pride bitterly resented the younger
brother's (as I call him) having crossed swords with a peasant, and
that peasant a boy. The only consideration that appeared to affect
the mind of either of them was the consideration that this was highly
degrading to the family, and was ridiculous. As often as I caught
the younger brother's eyes, their expression reminded me that he
disliked me deeply, for knowing what I knew from the boy. He was
smoother and more polite to me than the elder; but I saw this.
I also saw that I was an incumbrance in the mind of the elder, too.
"My patient died, two hours before midnight--at a time, by my watch,
answering almost to the minute when I had first seen her. I was
alone with her, when her forlorn young head drooped gently on one
side, and all her earthly wrongs and sorrows ended.
"The brothers were waiting in a room down-stairs, impatient to ride
away. I had heard them, alone at the bedside, striking their boots
with their riding-whips, and loitering up and down.
"`At last she is dead?' said the elder, when I went in.
"'She is dead,' said I.
"`I congratulate you, my brother,'were his words as he turned round.
"He had before offered me money, which I had postponed taking. He
now gave me a rouleau of gold. I took it from his hand, but laid it
on the table. I had considered the question, and had resolved to
"`Pray excuse me,' said I. `Under the circumstances, no.'
"They exchanged looks, but bent their heads to me as I bent mine to
them, and we parted without another word on either side.
* * * *
"I am weary, weary, weary-worn down by misery. I cannot read what I
have written with this gaunt hand.
"Early in the morning, the rouleau of gold was left at my door in a
little box, with my name on the outside. From the first, I had
anxiously considered what I ought to do. I decided, that day, to
write privately to the Minister, stating the nature of the two cases
to which I had been summoned, and the place to which I had gone: in
effect, stating all the circumstances. I knew what Court influence
was, and what the immunities of the Nobles were, and I expected that
the matter would never be heard of; but, I wished to relieve my own
mind. I had kept the matter a profound secret, even from my wife;
and this, too, I resolved to state in my letter. I had no apprehension
whatever of my real danger; but I was conscious that there might be
danger for others, if others were compromised by possessing the
knowledge that I possessed.
"I was much engaged that day, and could not complete my letter that
night. I rose long before my usual time next morning to finish it.
It was the last day of the year. The letter was lying before me just
completed, when I was told that a lady waited, who wished to see me.
* * * *
"I am growing more and more unequal to the task I have set myself.
It is so cold, so dark, my senses are so benumbed, and the gloom upon
me is so dreadful.
"The lady was young, engaging, and handsome, but not marked for long
life. She was in great agitation. She presented herself to me as
the wife of the Marquis St. Evremonde. I connected the title by
which the boy had addressed the elder brother, with the initial
letter embroidered on the scarf, and had no difficulty in arriving at
the conclusion that I had seen that nobleman very lately.
"My memory is still accurate, but I cannot write the words of our
conversation. I suspect that I am watched more closely than I was,
and I know not at what times I may be watched. She had in part
suspected, and in part discovered, the main facts of the cruel story,
of her husband's share in it, and my being resorted to. She did not
know that the girl was dead. Her hope had been, she said in great
distress, to show her, in secret, a woman's sympathy. Her hope had
been to avert the wrath of Heaven from a House that had long been
hateful to the suffering many.
"She had reasons for believing that there was a young sister living,
and her greatest desire was, to help that sister. I could tell her
nothing but that there was such a sister; beyond that, I knew nothing.
Her inducement to come to me, relying on my confidence, had been the
hope that I could tell her the name and place of abode. Whereas,
to this wretched hour I am ignorant of both.
* * * *
"These scraps of paper fail me. One was taken from me, with a
warning, yesterday. I must finish my record to-day.
"She was a good, compassionate lady, and not happy in her marriage.
How could she be! The brother distrusted and disliked her, and his
influence was all opposed to her; she stood in dread of him, and in
dread of her husband too. When I handed her down to the door, there
was a child, a pretty boy from two to three years old, in her carriage.
"`For his sake, Doctor,' she said, pointing to him in tears, `I would
do all I can to make what poor amends I can. He will never prosper
in his inheritance otherwise. I have a presentiment that if no other
innocent atonement is made for this, it will one day be required of
him. What I have left to call my own--it is little beyond the worth
of a few jewels--I will make it the first charge of his life to
bestow, with the compassion and lamenting of his dead mother, on this
injured family, if the sister can be discovered.'
"She kissed the boy, and said, caressing him, `It is for thine own
dear sake. Thou wilt be faithful, little Charles?' The child
answered her bravely, `Yes!' I kissed her hand, and she took him in
her arms, and went away caressing him. I never saw her more.
"As she had mentioned her husband's name in the faith that I knew it,
I added no mention of it to my letter. I sealed my letter, and, not
trusting it out of my own hands, delivered it myself that day.
"That night, the last night of the year, towards nine o'clock, a man
in a black dress rang at my gate, demanded to see me, and softly
followed my servant, Ernest Defarge, a youth, up-stairs. When my
servant came into the room where I sat with my wife--O my wife,
beloved of my heart! My fair young English wife!--we saw the man,
who was supposed to be at the gate, standing silent behind him.
"An urgent case in the Rue St. Honore, he said. It would not detain
me, he had a coach in waiting.
"It brought me here, it brought me to my grave. When I was clear of
the house, a black muffler was drawn tightly over my mouth from
behind, and my arms were pinioned. The two brothers crossed the road