The traveller fared slowly on his way, who fared towards Paris from England i_he autumn of the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two. More tha_nough of bad roads, bad equipages, and bad horses, he would have encountere_o delay him, though the fallen and unfortunate King of France had been upo_is throne in all his glory; but, the changed times were fraught with othe_bstacles than these. Every town-gate and village taxing-house had its band o_itizen-patriots, with their national muskets in a most explosive state o_eadiness, who stopped all comers and goers, cross-questioned them, inspecte_heir papers, looked for their names in lists of their own, turned them back, or sent them on, or stopped them and laid them in hold, as their capriciou_udgment or fancy deemed best for the dawning Republic One and Indivisible, o_iberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.
A very few French leagues of his journey were accomplished, when Charle_arnay began to perceive that for him along these country roads there was n_ope of return until he should have been declared a good citizen at Paris.
Whatever might befall now, he must on to his journey's end. Not a mean villag_losed upon him, not a common barrier dropped across the road behind him, bu_e knew it to be another iron door in the series that was barred between hi_nd England. The universal watchfulness so encompassed him, that if he ha_een taken in a net, or were being forwarded to his destination in a cage, h_ould not have felt his freedom more completely gone.
This universal watchfulness not only stopped him on the highway twenty time_n a stage, but retarded his progress twenty times in a day, by riding afte_im and taking him back, riding before him and stopping him by anticipation, riding with him and keeping him in charge. He had been days upon his journe_n France alone, when he went to bed tired out, in a little town on the hig_oad, still a long way from Paris.
Nothing but the production of the afflicted Gabelle's letter from his priso_f the Abbaye would have got him on so far. His difficulty at the guard-hous_n this small place had been such, that he felt his journey to have come to _risis. And he was, therefore, as little surprised as a man could be, to fin_imself awakened at the small inn to which he had been remitted until morning, in the middle of the night.
Awakened by a timid local functionary and three armed patriots in rough re_aps and with pipes in their mouths, who sat down on the bed.
"Emigrant," said the functionary, "I am going to send you on to Paris, unde_n escort."
"Citizen, I desire nothing more than to get to Paris, though I could dispens_ith the escort."
"Silence!" growled a red-cap, striking at the coverlet with the butt-end o_is musket. "Peace, aristocrat!"
"It is as the good patriot says," observed the timid functionary. "You are a_ristocrat, and must have an escort—and must pay for it."
"I have no choice," said Charles Darnay.
"Choice! Listen to him!" cried the same scowling red-cap. "As if it was not _avour to be protected from the lamp-iron!"
"It is always as the good patriot says," observed the functionary. "Rise an_ress yourself, emigrant."
Darnay complied, and was taken back to the guard-house, where other patriot_n rough red caps were smoking, drinking, and sleeping, by a watch-fire. Her_e paid a heavy price for his escort, and hence he started with it on the wet, wet roads at three o'clock in the morning.
The escort were two mounted patriots in red caps and tri-coloured cockades, armed with national muskets and sabres, who rode one on either side of him.
The escorted governed his own horse, but a loose line was attached to hi_ridle, the end of which one of the patriots kept girded round his wrist. I_his state they set forth with the sharp rain driving in their faces: clattering at a heavy dragoon trot over the uneven town pavement, and out upo_he mire-deep roads. In this state they traversed without change, except o_orses and pace, all the mire-deep leagues that lay between them and th_apital.
They travelled in the night, halting an hour or two after daybreak, and lyin_y until the twilight fell. The escort were so wretchedly clothed, that the_wisted straw round their bare legs, and thatched their ragged shoulders t_eep the wet off. Apart from the personal discomfort of being so attended, an_part from such considerations of present danger as arose from one of th_atriots being chronically drunk, and carrying his musket very recklessly, Charles Darnay did not allow the restraint that was laid upon him to awake_ny serious fears in his breast; for, he reasoned with himself that it coul_ave no reference to the merits of an individual case that was not yet stated, and of representations, confirmable by the prisoner in the Abbaye, that wer_ot yet made.
But when they came to the town of Beauvais—which they did at eventide, whe_he streets were filled with people—he could not conceal from himself that th_spect of affairs was very alarming. An ominous crowd gathered to see hi_ismount of the posting-yard, and many voices called out loudly, "Down wit_he emigrant!"
He stopped in the act of swinging himself out of his saddle, and, resuming i_s his safest place, said:
"Emigrant, my friends! Do you not see me here, in France, of my own will?"
"You are a cursed emigrant," cried a farrier, making at him in a furiou_anner through the press, hammer in hand; "and you are a cursed aristocrat!"
The postmaster interposed himself between this man and the rider's bridle (a_hich he was evidently making), and soothingly said, "Let him be; let him be!
He will be judged at Paris."
"Judged!" repeated the farrier, swinging his hammer. "Ay! and condemned as _raitor." At this the crowd roared approval.
Checking the postmaster, who was for turning his horse's head to the yard (th_runken patriot sat composedly in his saddle looking on, with the line roun_is wrist), Darnay said, as soon as he could make his voice heard:
"Friends, you deceive yourselves, or you are deceived. I am not a traitor."
"He lies!" cried the smith. "He is a traitor since the decree. His life i_orfeit to the people. His cursed life is not his own!"
At the instant when Darnay saw a rush in the eyes of the crowd, which anothe_nstant would have brought upon him, the postmaster turned his horse into th_ard, the escort rode in close upon his horse's flanks, and the postmaste_hut and barred the crazy double gates. The farrier struck a blow upon the_ith his hammer, and the crowd groaned; but, no more was done.
"What is this decree that the smith spoke of?" Darnay asked the postmaster, when he had thanked him, and stood beside him in the yard.
"Truly, a decree for selling the property of emigrants."
"On the fourteenth."
"The day I left England!"
"Everybody says it is but one of several, and that there will be others—i_here are not already-banishing all emigrants, and condemning all to death wh_eturn. That is what he meant when he said your life was not your own."
"But there are no such decrees yet?"
"What do I know!" said the postmaster, shrugging his shoulders; "there may be, or there will be. It is all the same. What would you have?"
They rested on some straw in a loft until the middle of the night, and the_ode forward again when all the town was asleep. Among the many wild change_bservable on familiar things which made this wild ride unreal, not the leas_as the seeming rarity of sleep. After long and lonely spurring over drear_oads, they would come to a cluster of poor cottages, not steeped in darkness, but all glittering with lights, and would find the people, in a ghostly manne_n the dead of the night, circling hand in hand round a shrivelled tree o_iberty, or all drawn up together singing a Liberty song. Happily, however, there was sleep in Beauvais that night to help them out of it and they passe_n once more into solitude and loneliness: jingling through the untimely col_nd wet, among impoverished fields that had yielded no fruits of the eart_hat year, diversified by the blackened remains of burnt houses, and by th_udden emergence from ambuscade, and sharp reining up across their way, o_atriot patrols on the watch on all the roads.
Daylight at last found them before the wall of Paris. The barrier was close_nd strongly guarded when they rode up to it.
"Where are the papers of this prisoner?" demanded a resolute-looking man i_uthority, who was summoned out by the guard.
Naturally struck by the disagreeable word, Charles Darnay requested th_peaker to take notice that he was a free traveller and French citizen, i_harge of an escort which the disturbed state of the country had imposed upo_im, and which he had paid for.
"Where," repeated the same personage, without taking any heed of him whatever,
"are the papers of this prisoner?"
The drunken patriot had them in his cap, and produced them. Casting his eye_ver Gabelle's letter, the same personage in authority showed some disorde_nd surprise, and looked at Darnay with a close attention.
He left escort and escorted without saying a word, however, and went into th_uard-room; meanwhile, they sat upon their horses outside the gate. Lookin_bout him while in this state of suspense, Charles Darnay observed that th_ate was held by a mixed guard of soldiers and patriots, the latter fa_utnumbering the former; and that while ingress into the city for peasants'
carts bringing in supplies, and for similar traffic and traffickers, was eas_nough, egress, even for the homeliest people, was very difficult. A numerou_edley of men and women, not to mention beasts and vehicles of various sorts, was waiting to issue forth; but, the previous identification was so strict, that they filtered through the barrier very slowly. Some of these people kne_heir turn for examination to be so far off, that they lay down on the groun_o sleep or smoke, while others talked together, or loitered about. The re_ap and tri-colour cockade were universal, both among men and women.
When he had sat in his saddle some half-hour, taking note of these things, Darnay found himself confronted by the same man in authority, who directed th_uard to open the barrier. Then he delivered to the escort, drunk and sober, _eceipt for the escorted, and requested him to dismount. He did so, and th_wo patriots, leading his tired horse, turned and rode away without enterin_he city.
He accompanied his conductor into a guard-room, smelling of common wine an_obacco, where certain soldiers and patriots, asleep and awake, drunk an_ober, and in various neutral states between sleeping and waking, drunkennes_nd sobriety, were standing and lying about. The light in the guard-house, half derived from the waning oil-lamps of the night, and half from th_vercast day, was in a correspondingly uncertain condition. Some register_ere lying open on a desk, and an officer of a coarse, dark aspect, preside_ver these.
"Citizen Defarge," said he to Darnay's conductor, as he took a slip of pape_o write on. "Is this the emigrant Evremonde?"
"This is the man."
"Your age, Evremonde?"
"Without doubt. Where is your wife, Evremonde?"
"Without doubt. You are consigned, Evremonde, to the prison of La Force."
"Just Heaven!" exclaimed Darnay. "Under what law, and for what offence?"
The officer looked up from his slip of paper for a moment.
"We have new laws, Evremonde, and new offences, since you were here." He sai_t with a hard smile, and went on writing.
"I entreat you to observe that I have come here voluntarily, in response t_hat written appeal of a fellow-countryman which lies before you. I demand n_ore than the opportunity to do so without delay. Is not that my right?"
"Emigrants have no rights, Evremonde," was the stolid reply. The officer wrot_ntil he had finished, read over to himself what he had written, sanded it, and handed it to Defarge, with the words "In secret."
Defarge motioned with the paper to the prisoner that he must accompany him.
The prisoner obeyed, and a guard of two armed patriots attended them.
"Is it you," said Defarge, in a low voice, as they went down the guardhous_teps and turned into Paris, "who married the daughter of Doctor Manette, onc_ prisoner in the Bastille that is no more?"
"Yes," replied Darnay, looking at him with surprise.
"My name is Defarge, and I keep a wine-shop in the Quarter Saint Antoine.
Possibly you have heard of me."
"My wife came to your house to reclaim her father? Yes!"
The word "wife" seemed to serve as a gloomy reminder to Defarge, to say wit_udden impatience, "In the name of that sharp female newly-born, and called L_uillotine, why did you come to France?"
"You heard me say why, a minute ago. Do you not believe it is the truth?"
"A bad truth for you," said Defarge, speaking with knitted brows, and lookin_traight before him.
"Indeed I am lost here. All here is so unprecedented, so changed, so sudde_nd unfair, that I am absolutely lost. Will you render me a little help?"
"None." Defarge spoke, always looking straight before him.
"Will you answer me a single question?"
"Perhaps. According to its nature. You can say what it is."
"In this prison that I am going to so unjustly, shall I have some fre_ommunication with the world outside?"
"You will see."
"I am not to be buried there, prejudged, and without any means of presentin_y case?"
"You will see. But, what then? Other people have been similarly buried i_orse prisons, before now."
"But never by me, Citizen Defarge."
Defarge glanced darkly at him for answer, and walked on in a steady and se_ilence. The deeper he sank into this silence, the fainter hope there was—o_o Darnay thought—of his softening in any slight degree. He, therefore, mad_aste to say:
"It is of the utmost importance to me (you know, Citizen, even better than I, of how much importance), that I should be able to communicate to Mr. Lorry o_ellson's Bank, an English gentleman who is now in Paris, the simple fact, without comment, that I have been thrown into the prison of La Force. Will yo_ause that to be done for me?"
"I will do," Defarge doggedly rejoined, "nothing for you. My duty is to m_ountry and the People. I am the sworn servant of both, against you. I will d_othing for you."
Charles Darnay felt it hopeless to entreat him further, and his pride wa_ouched besides. As they walked on in silence, he could not but see how use_he people were to the spectacle of prisoners passing along the streets. Th_ery children scarcely noticed him. A few passers turned their heads, and _ew shook their fingers at him as an aristocrat; otherwise, that a man in goo_lothes should be going to prison, was no more remarkable than that a laboure_n working clothes should be going to work. In one narrow, dark, and dirt_treet through which they passed, an excited orator, mounted on a stool, wa_ddressing an excited audience on the crimes against the people, of the kin_nd the royal family. The few words that he caught from this man's lips, firs_ade it known to Charles Darnay that the king was in prison, and that th_oreign ambassadors had one and all left Paris. On the road (except a_eauvais) he had heard absolutely nothing. The escort and the universa_atchfulness had completely isolated him.
That he had fallen among far greater dangers than those which had develope_hemselves when he left England, he of course knew now. That perils ha_hickened about him fast, and might thicken faster and faster yet, he o_ourse knew now. He could not but admit to himself that he might not have mad_his journey, if he could have foreseen the events of a few days. And yet hi_isgivings were not so dark as, imagined by the light of this later time, the_ould appear. Troubled as the future was, it was the unknown future, and i_ts obscurity there was ignorant hope. The horrible massacre, days and night_ong, which, within a few rounds of the clock, was to set a great mark o_lood upon the blessed garnering time of harvest, was as far out of hi_nowledge as if it had been a hundred thousand years away. The "sharp femal_ewly-born, and called La Guillotine," was hardly known to him, or to th_enerality of people, by name. The frightful deeds that were to be soon done, were probably unimagined at that time in the brains of the doers. How coul_hey have a place in the shadowy conceptions of a gentle mind?
Of unjust treatment in detention and hardship, and in cruel separation fro_is wife and child, he foreshadowed the likelihood, or the certainty; but, beyond this, he dreaded nothing distinctly. With this on his mind, which wa_nough to carry into a dreary prison courtyard, he arrived at the prison of L_orce.
A man with a bloated face opened the strong wicket, to whom Defarge presented
"The Emigrant Evremonde."
"What the Devil! How many more of them!" exclaimed the man with the bloate_ace.
Defarge took his receipt without noticing the exclamation, and withdrew, wit_is two fellow-patriots.
"What the Devil, I say again!" exclaimed the gaoler, left with his wife. "Ho_any more!"
The gaoler's wife, being provided with no answer to the question, merel_eplied, "One must have patience, my dear!" Three turnkeys who entere_esponsive to a bell she rang, echoed the sentiment, and one added, "For th_ove of Liberty;" which sounded in that place like an inappropriat_onclusion.
The prison of La Force was a gloomy prison, dark and filthy, and with _orrible smell of foul sleep in it. Extraordinary how soon the noisome flavou_f imprisoned sleep, becomes manifest in all such places that are ill care_or!
"In secret, too," grumbled the gaoler, looking at the written paper. "As if _as not already full to bursting!"
He stuck the paper on a file, in an ill-humour, and Charles Darnay awaited hi_urther pleasure for half an hour: sometimes, pacing to and fro in the stron_rched room: sometimes, resting on a stone seat: in either case detained to b_mprinted on the memory of the chief and his subordinates.
"Come!" said the chief, at length taking up his keys, "come with me, emigrant."
Through the dismal prison twilight, his new charge accompanied him by corrido_nd staircase, many doors clanging and locking behind them, until they cam_nto a large, low, vaulted chamber, crowded with prisoners of both sexes. Th_omen were seated at a long table, reading and writing, knitting, sewing, an_mbroidering; the men were for the most part standing behind their chairs, o_ingering up and down the room.
In the instinctive association of prisoners with shameful crime and disgrace, the new-comer recoiled from this company. But the crowning unreality of hi_ong unreal ride, was, their all at once rising to receive him, with ever_efinement of manner known to the time, and with all the engaging graces an_ourtesies of life.
So strangely clouded were these refinements by the prison manners and gloom, so spectral did they become in the inappropriate squalor and misery throug_hich they were seen, that Charles Darnay seemed to stand in a company of th_ead. Ghosts all! The ghost of beauty, the ghost of stateliness, the ghost o_legance, the ghost of pride, the ghost of frivolity, the ghost of wit, th_host of youth, the ghost of age, all waiting their dismissal from th_esolate shore, all turning on him eyes that were changed by the death the_ad died in coming there.
It struck him motionless. The gaoler standing at his side, and the othe_aolers moving about, who would have been well enough as to appearance in th_rdinary exercise of their functions, looked so extravagantly coars_ontrasted with sorrowing mothers and blooming daughters who were there—wit_he apparitions of the coquette, the young beauty, and the mature woma_elicately bred—that the inversion of all experience and likelihood which th_cene of shadows presented, was heightened to its utmost. Surely, ghosts all.
Surely, the long unreal ride some progress of disease that had brought him t_hese gloomy shades!
"In the name of the assembled companions in misfortune," said a gentleman o_ourtly appearance and address, coming forward, "I have the honour of givin_ou welcome to La Force, and of condoling with you on the calamity that ha_rought you among us. May it soon terminate happily! It would be a_mpertinence elsewhere, but it is not so here, to ask your name an_ondition?"
Charles Darnay roused himself, and gave the required information, in words a_uitable as he could find.
"But I hope," said the gentleman, following the chief gaoler with his eyes, who moved across the room, "that you are not in secret?"
"I do not understand the meaning of the term, but I have heard them say so."
"Ah, what a pity! We so much regret it! But take courage; several members o_ur society have been in secret, at first, and it has lasted but a shor_ime." Then he added, raising his voice, "I grieve to inform the society—i_ecret."
There was a murmur of commiseration as Charles Darnay crossed the room to _rated door where the gaoler awaited him, and many voices—among which, th_oft and compassionate voices of women were conspicuous—gave him good wishe_nd encouragement. He turned at the grated door, to render the thanks of hi_eart; it closed under the gaoler's hand; and the apparitions vanished fro_is sight forever.
The wicket opened on a stone staircase, leading upward. When they bad ascende_orty steps (the prisoner of half an hour already counted them), the gaole_pened a low black door, and they passed into a solitary cell. It struck col_nd damp, but was not dark.
"Yours," said the gaoler.
"Why am I confined alone?"
"How do I know!"
"I can buy pen, ink, and paper?"
"Such are not my orders. You will be visited, and can ask then. At present, you may buy your food, and nothing more."
There were in the cell, a chair, a table, and a straw mattress. As the gaole_ade a general inspection of these objects, and of the four walls, befor_oing out, a wandering fancy wandered through the mind of the prisoner leanin_gainst the wall opposite to him, that this gaoler was so unwholesomel_loated, both in face and person, as to look like a man who had been drowne_nd filled with water. When the gaoler was gone, he thought in the sam_andering way, "Now am I left, as if I were dead." Stopping then, to look dow_t the mattress, he turned from it with a sick feeling, and thought, "And her_n these crawling creatures is the first condition of the body after death."
"Five paces by four and a half, five paces by four and a half, five paces b_our and a half." The prisoner walked to and fro in his cell, counting it_easurement, and the roar of the city arose like muffled drums with a wil_well of voices added to them. "He made shoes, he made shoes, he made shoes."
The prisoner counted the measurement again, and paced faster, to draw his min_ith him from that latter repetition. "The ghosts that vanished when th_icket closed. There was one among them, the appearance of a lady dressed i_lack, who was leaning in the embrasure of a window, and she had a ligh_hining upon her golden hair, and she looked like * * * * Let us ride o_gain, for God's sake, through the illuminated villages with the people al_wake! * * * * He made shoes, he made shoes, he made shoes. * * * * Five pace_y four and a half." With such scraps tossing and rolling upward from th_epths of his mind, the prisoner walked faster and faster, obstinatel_ounting and counting; and the roar of the city changed to this extent—that i_till rolled in like muffled drums, but with the wail of voices that he knew, in the swell that rose above them.