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Chapter 14 The Knitting Done

  • In that same juncture of time when the Fifty-Two awaited their fate Madam_efarge held darkly ominous council with The Vengeance and Jacques Three o_he Revolutionary Jury. Not in the wine-shop did Madame Defarge confer wit_hese ministers, but in the shed of the wood-sawyer, erst a mender of roads.
  • The sawyer himself did not participate in the conference, but abided at _ittle distance, like an outer satellite who was not to speak until required, or to offer an opinion until invited.
  • “But our Defarge,” said Jacques Three, “is undoubtedly a good Republican? Eh?”
  • “There is no better,” the voluble Vengeance protested in her shrill notes, “i_rance.”
  • “Peace, little Vengeance,” said Madame Defarge, laying her hand with a sligh_rown on her lieutenant’s lips, “hear me speak. My husband, fellow-citizen, i_ good Republican and a bold man; he has deserved well of the Republic, an_ossesses its confidence. But my husband has his weaknesses, and he is so wea_s to relent towards this Doctor.”
  • “It is a great pity,” croaked Jacques Three, dubiously shaking his head, wit_is cruel fingers at his hungry mouth; “it is not quite like a good citizen; it is a thing to regret.”
  • “See you,” said madame, “I care nothing for this Doctor, I. He may wear hi_ead or lose it, for any interest I have in him; it is all one to me. But, th_vremonde people are to be exterminated, and the wife and child must follo_he husband and father.”
  • “She has a fine head for it,” croaked Jacques Three. “I have seen blue eye_nd golden hair there, and they looked charming when Samson held them up.” Ogre that he was, he spoke like an epicure.
  • Madame Defarge cast down her eyes, and reflected a little.
  • “The child also,” observed Jacques Three, with a meditative enjoyment of hi_ords, “has golden hair and blue eyes. And we seldom have a child there. It i_ pretty sight!”
  • “In a word,” said Madame Defarge, coming out of her short abstraction, “_annot trust my husband in this matter. Not only do I feel, since last night, that I dare not confide to him the details of my projects; but also I fee_hat if I delay, there is danger of his giving warning, and then they migh_scape.”
  • “That must never be,” croaked Jacques Three; “no one must escape. We have no_alf enough as it is. We ought to have six score a day.”
  • “In a word,” Madame Defarge went on, “my husband has not my reason fo_ursuing this family to annihilation, and I have not his reason for regardin_his Doctor with any sensibility. I must act for myself, therefore. Com_ither, little citizen.”
  • The wood-sawyer, who held her in the respect, and himself in the submission, of mortal fear, advanced with his hand to his red cap.
  • “Touching those signals, little citizen,” said Madame Defarge, sternly, “tha_he made to the prisoners; you are ready to bear witness to them this ver_ay?”
  • “Ay, ay, why not!” cried the sawyer. “Every day, in all weathers, from two t_our, always signalling, sometimes with the little one, sometimes without. _now what I know. I have seen with my eyes.”
  • He made all manner of gestures while he spoke, as if in incidental imitatio_f some few of the great diversity of signals that he had never seen.
  • “Clearly plots,” said Jacques Three. “Transparently!”
  • “There is no doubt of the Jury?” inquired Madame Defarge, letting her eye_urn to him with a gloomy smile.
  • “Rely upon the patriotic Jury, dear citizeness. I answer for my fellow- Jurymen.”
  • “Now, let me see,” said Madame Defarge, pondering again. “Yet once more! Can _pare this Doctor to my husband? I have no feeling either way. Can I spar_im?”
  • “He would count as one head,” observed Jacques Three, in a low voice. “W_eally have not heads enough; it would be a pity, I think.”
  • “He was signalling with her when I saw her,” argued Madame Defarge; “I canno_peak of one without the other; and I must not be silent, and trust the cas_holly to him, this little citizen here. For, I am not a bad witness.”
  • The Vengeance and Jacques Three vied with each other in their ferven_rotestations that she was the most admirable and marvellous of witnesses. Th_ittle citizen, not to be outdone, declared her to be a celestial witness.
  • “He must take his chance,” said Madame Defarge. “No, I cannot spare him! Yo_re engaged at three o’clock; you are going to see the batch of to-da_xecuted.—You?”
  • The question was addressed to the wood-sawyer, who hurriedly replied in th_ffirmative: seizing the occasion to add that he was the most ardent o_epublicans, and that he would be in effect the most desolate of Republicans, if anything prevented him from enjoying the pleasure of smoking his afternoo_ipe in the contemplation of the droll national barber. He was so ver_emonstrative herein, that he might have been suspected (perhaps was, by th_ark eyes that looked contemptuously at him out of Madame Defarge’s head) o_aving his small individual fears for his own personal safety, every hour i_he day.
  • “I,” said madame, “am equally engaged at the same place. After it is over-sa_t eight to-night—come you to me, in Saint Antoine, and we will giv_nformation against these people at my Section.”
  • The wood-sawyer said he would be proud and flattered to attend the citizeness.
  • The citizeness looking at him, he became embarrassed, evaded her glance as _mall dog would have done, retreated among his wood, and hid his confusio_ver the handle of his saw.
  • Madame Defarge beckoned the Juryman and The Vengeance a little nearer to th_oor, and there expounded her further views to them thus:
  • “She will now be at home, awaiting the moment of his death. She will b_ourning and grieving. She will be in a state of mind to impeach the justic_f the Republic. She will be full of sympathy with its enemies. I will go t_er.”
  • “What an admirable woman; what an adorable woman!” exclaimed Jacques Three, rapturously. “Ah, my cherished!” cried The Vengeance; and embraced her.
  • “Take you my knitting,” said Madame Defarge, placing it in her lieutenant’_ands, “and have it ready for me in my usual seat. Keep me my usual chair. G_ou there, straight, for there will probably be a greater concourse tha_sual, to-day.”
  • “I willingly obey the orders of my Chief,” said The Vengeance with alacrity, and kissing her cheek. “You will not be late?”
  • “I shall be there before the commencement.”
  • “And before the tumbrils arrive. Be sure you are there, my soul,” said Th_engeance, calling after her, for she had already turned into the street, “before the tumbrils arrive!”
  • Madame Defarge slightly waved her hand, to imply that she heard, and might b_elied upon to arrive in good time, and so went through the mud, and round th_orner of the prison wall. The Vengeance and the Juryman, looking after her a_he walked away, were highly appreciative of her fine figure, and her super_oral endowments.
  • There were many women at that time, upon whom the time laid a dreadfull_isfiguring hand; but, there was not one among them more to be dreaded tha_his ruthless woman, now taking her way along the streets. Of a strong an_earless character, of shrewd sense and readiness, of great determination, o_hat kind of beauty which not only seems to impart to its possessor firmnes_nd animosity, but to strike into others an instinctive recognition of thos_ualities; the troubled time would have heaved her up, under an_ircumstances. But, imbued from her childhood with a brooding sense of wrong, and an inveterate hatred of a class, opportunity had developed her into _igress. She was absolutely without pity. If she had ever had the virtue i_er, it had quite gone out of her.
  • It was nothing to her, that an innocent man was to die for the sins of hi_orefathers; she saw, not him, but them. It was nothing to her, that his wif_as to be made a widow and his daughter an orphan; that was insufficien_unishment, because they were her natural enemies and her prey, and as suc_ad no right to live. To appeal to her, was made hopeless by her having n_ense of pity, even for herself. If she had been laid low in the streets, i_ny of the many encounters in which she had been engaged, she would not hav_itied herself; nor, if she had been ordered to the axe to-morrow, would sh_ave gone to it with any softer feeling than a fierce desire to change place_ith the man who sent here there.
  • Such a heart Madame Defarge carried under her rough robe. Carelessly worn, i_as a becoming robe enough, in a certain weird way, and her dark hair looke_ich under her coarse red cap. Lying hidden in her bosom, was a loaded pistol.
  • Lying hidden at her waist, was a sharpened dagger. Thus accoutred, and walkin_ith the confident tread of such a character, and with the supple freedom of _oman who had habitually walked in her girlhood, bare-foot and bare-legged, o_he brown sea-sand, Madame Defarge took her way along the streets.
  • Now, when the journey of the travelling coach, at that very moment waiting fo_he completion of its load, had been planned out last night, the difficulty o_aking Miss Pross in it had much engaged Mr. Lorry’s attention. It was no_erely desirable to avoid overloading the coach, but it was of the highes_mportance that the time occupied in examining it and its passengers, shoul_e reduced to the utmost; since their escape might depend on the saving o_nly a few seconds here and there. Finally, he had proposed, after anxious
  • consideration, that Miss Pross and Jerry, who were at liberty to leave th_ity, should leave it at three o’clock in the lightest-wheeled conveyanc_nown to that period. Unencumbered with luggage, they would soon overtake th_oach, and, passing it and preceding it on the road, would order its horses i_dvance, and greatly facilitate its progress during the precious hours of th_ight, when delay was the most to be dreaded.
  • Seeing in this arrangement the hope of rendering real service in that pressin_mergency, Miss Pross hailed it with joy. She and Jerry had beheld the coac_tart, had known who it was that Solomon brought, had passed some ten minute_n tortures of suspense, and were now concluding their arrangements to follo_he coach, even as Madame Defarge, taking her way through the streets, no_rew nearer and nearer to the else-deserted lodging in which they held thei_onsultation.
  • “Now what do you think, Mr. Cruncher,” said Miss Pross, whose agitation was s_reat that she could hardly speak, or stand, or move, or live: “what do yo_hink of our not starting from this courtyard? Another carriage having alread_one from here to-day, it might awaken suspicion.”
  • “My opinion, miss,” returned Mr. Cruncher, “is as you’re right. Likewise wo_’ll stand by you, right or wrong.”
  • “I am so distracted with fear and hope for our precious creatures,” said Mis_ross, wildly crying, “that I am incapable of forming any plan. Are yo_apable of forming any plan, my dear good Mr. Cruncher?”
  • “Respectin’ a future spear o’ life, miss,” returned Mr. Cruncher, “I hope so.
  • Respectin’ any present use o’ this here blessed old head o’ mind, I think not.
  • Would you do me the favour, miss, to take notice o’ two promises and wows wo_t is my wishes fur to record in this here crisis?”
  • “Oh, for gracious sake!” cried Miss Pross, still wildly crying, “record the_t once, and get them out of the way, like an excellent man.”
  • “First,” said Mr. Cruncher, who was all in a tremble, and who spoke with a_shy and solemn visage, “them poor things well out o’ this, never no more wil_ do it, never no more!”
  • “I am quite sure, Mr. Cruncher,” returned Miss Pross, “that you never will d_t again, whatever it is, and I beg you not to think it necessary to mentio_ore particularly what it is.”
  • “No, miss,” returned Jerry, “it shall not be named to you. Second: them poo_hings well out o’ this, and never no more will I interfere with Mrs.
  • Cruncher’s flopping, never no more!”
  • “Whatever housekeeping arrangement that may be,” said Miss Pross, striving t_ry her eyes and compose herself, “I have no doubt it is best that Mrs.
  • Cruncher should have it entirely under her own superintendence.—O my poo_arlings!”
  • “I go so far as to say, miss, moreover,” proceeded Mr. Cruncher, with a mos_larming tendency to hold forth as from a pulpit—“and let my words be too_own and took to Mrs. Cruncher through yourself—that wot my opinion_espectin’ flopping has undergone a change, and that wot I only hope with al_y heart as Mrs. Cruncher may be a flopping at the present time.”
  • “There, there, there! I hope she is, my dear man,” cried the distracted Mis_ross, “and I hope she finds it answering her expectations.”
  • “Forbid it,” proceeded Mr. Cruncher, with additional solemnity, additiona_lowness, and additional tendency to hold forth and hold out, “as anything wo_ have ever said or done should be wisited on my earnest wishes for them poo_reeturs now! Forbid it as we shouldn’t all flop (if it was anyway_onwenient) to get ’em out o’ this here dismal risk! Forbid it, miss! Wot _ay, for-bid it!” This was Mr. Cruncher’s conclusion after a protracted bu_ain endeavour to find a better one.
  • And still Madame Defarge, pursuing her way along the streets, came nearer an_earer.
  • “If we ever get back to our native land,” said Miss Pross, “you may rely upo_y telling Mrs. Cruncher as much as I may be able to remember and understan_f what you have so impressively said; and at all events you may be sure tha_ shall bear witness to your being thoroughly in earnest at this dreadfu_ime. Now, pray let us think! My esteemed Mr. Cruncher, let us think!”
  • Still, Madame Defarge, pursuing her way along the streets, came nearer an_earer.
  • “If you were to go before,” said Miss Pross, “and stop the vehicle and horse_rom coming here, and were to wait somewhere for me; wouldn’t that be best?”
  • Mr. Cruncher thought it might be best.
  • “Where could you wait for me?” asked Miss Pross.
  • Mr. Cruncher was so bewildered that he could think of no locality but Templ_ar. Alas! Temple Bar was hundreds of miles away, and Madame Defarge wa_rawing very near indeed.
  • “By the cathedral door,” said Miss Pross. “Would it be much out of the way, t_ake me in, near the great cathedral door between the two towers?”
  • “No, miss,” answered Mr. Cruncher.
  • “Then, like the best of men,” said Miss Pross, “go to the posting-hous_traight, and make that change.”
  • “I am doubtful,” said Mr. Cruncher, hesitating and shaking his head, “abou_eaving of you, you see. We don’t know what may happen.”
  • “Heaven knows we don’t,” returned Miss Pross, “but have no fear for me. Tak_e in at the cathedral, at Three o’Clock, or as near it as you can, and I a_ure it will be better than our going from here. I feel certain of it. There!
  • Bless you, Mr. Cruncher! Think-not of me, but of the lives that may depend o_oth of us!”
  • This exordium, and Miss Pross’s two hands in quite agonised entreaty claspin_is, decided Mr. Cruncher. With an encouraging nod or two, he immediately wen_ut to alter the arrangements, and left her by herself to follow as she ha_roposed.
  • The having originated a precaution which was already in course of execution, was a great relief to Miss Pross. The necessity of composing her appearance s_hat it should attract no special notice in the streets, was another relief.
  • She looked at her watch, and it was twenty minutes past two. She had no tim_o lose, but must get ready at once.
  • Afraid, in her extreme perturbation, of the loneliness of the deserted rooms, and of half-imagined faces peeping from behind every open door in them, Mis_ross got a basin of cold water and began laving her eyes, which were swolle_nd red. Haunted by her feverish apprehensions, she could not bear to have he_ight obscured for a minute at a time by the dripping water, but constantl_aused and looked round to see that there was no one watching her. In one o_hose pauses she recoiled and cried out, for she saw a figure standing in th_oom.
  • The basin fell to the ground broken, and the water flowed to the feet o_adame Defarge. By strange stern ways, and through much staining blood, thos_eet had come to meet that water.
  • Madame Defarge looked coldly at her, and said, “The wife of Evremonde; wher_s she?”
  • It flashed upon Miss Pross’s mind that the doors were all standing open, an_ould suggest the flight. Her first act was to shut them. There were four i_he room, and she shut them all. She then placed herself before the door o_he chamber which Lucie had occupied.
  • Madame Defarge’s dark eyes followed her through this rapid movement, an_ested on her when it was finished. Miss Pross had nothing beautiful abou_er; years had not tamed the wildness, or softened the grimness, of he_ppearance; but, she too was a determined woman in her different way, and sh_easured Madame Defarge with her eyes, every inch.
  • “You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer,” said Miss Pross, i_er breathing. “Nevertheless, you shall not get the better of me. I am a_nglishwoman.”
  • Madame Defarge looked at her scornfully, but still with something of Mis_ross’s own perception that they two were at bay. She saw a tight, hard, wir_oman before her, as Mr. Lorry had seen in the same figure a woman with _trong hand, in the years gone by. She knew full well that Miss Pross was th_amily’s devoted friend; Miss Pross knew full well that Madame Defarge was th_amily’s malevolent enemy.
  • “On my way yonder,” said Madame Defarge, with a slight movement of her han_owards the fatal spot, “where they reserve my chair and my knitting for me, _m come to make my compliments to her in passing. I wish to see her.”
  • “I know that your intentions are evil,” said Miss Pross, “and you may depen_pon it, I’ll hold my own against them.”
  • Each spoke in her own language; neither understood the other’s words; bot_ere very watchful, and intent to deduce from look and manner, what th_nintelligible words meant.
  • “It will do her no good to keep herself concealed from me at this moment,” said Madame Defarge. “Good patriots will know what that means. Let me see her.
  • Go tell her that I wish to see her. Do you hear?”
  • “If those eyes of yours were bed-winches,” returned Miss Pross, “and I was a_nglish four-poster, they shouldn’t loose a splinter of me. No, you wicke_oreign woman; I am your match.”
  • Madame Defarge was not likely to follow these idiomatic remarks in detail; but, she so far understood them as to perceive that she was set at naught.
  • “Woman imbecile and pig-like!” said Madame Defarge, frowning. “I take n_nswer from you. I demand to see her. Either tell her that I demand to se_er, or stand out of the way of the door and let me go to her!” This, with a_ngry explanatory wave of her right arm.
  • “I little thought,” said Miss Pross, “that I should ever want to understan_our nonsensical language; but I would give all I have, except the clothes _ear, to know whether you suspect the truth, or any part of it.”
  • Neither of them for a single moment released the other’s eyes. Madame Defarg_ad not moved from the spot where she stood when Miss Pross first became awar_f her; but, she now advanced one step.
  • “I am a Briton,” said Miss Pross, “I am desperate. I don’t care an Englis_wopence for myself. I know that the longer I keep you here, the greater hop_here is for my Ladybird. I’ll not leave a handful of that dark hair upon you_ead, if you lay a finger on me!”
  • Thus Miss Pross, with a shake of her head and a flash of her eyes betwee_very rapid sentence, and every rapid sentence a whole breath. Thus Mis_ross, who had never struck a blow in her life.
  • But, her courage was of that emotional nature that it brought th_rrepressible tears into her eyes. This was a courage that Madame Defarge s_ittle comprehended as to mistake for weakness. “Ha, ha!” she laughed, “yo_oor wretch! What are you worth! I address myself to that Doctor.” Then sh_aised her voice and called out, “Citizen Doctor! Wife of Evremonde! Child o_vremonde! Any person but this miserable fool, answer the Citizeness Defarge!”
  • Perhaps the following silence, perhaps some latent disclosure in th_xpression of Miss Pross’s face, perhaps a sudden misgiving apart from eithe_uggestion, whispered to Madame Defarge that they were gone. Three of th_oors she opened swiftly, and looked in.
  • “Those rooms are all in disorder, there has been hurried packing, there ar_dds and ends upon the ground. There is no one in that room behind you! Let m_ook.”
  • “Never!” said Miss Pross, who understood the request as perfectly as Madam_efarge understood the answer.
  • “If they are not in that room, they are gone, and can be pursued and brough_ack,” said Madame Defarge to herself.
  • “As long as you don’t know whether they are in that room or not, you ar_ncertain what to do,” said Miss Pross to herself; “and you shall not kno_hat, if I can prevent your knowing it; and know that, or not know that, yo_hall not leave here while I can hold you.”
  • “I have been in the streets from the first, nothing has stopped me, I wil_ear you to pieces, but I will have you from that door,” said Madame Defarge.
  • “We are alone at the top of a high house in a solitary courtyard, we are no_ikely to be heard, and I pray for bodily strength to keep you here, whil_very minute you are here is worth a hundred thousand guineas to my darling,” said Miss Pross.
  • Madame Defarge made at the door. Miss Pross, on the instinct of the moment, seized her round the waist in both her arms, and held her tight. It was i_ain for Madame Defarge to struggle and to strike; Miss Pross, with th_igorous tenacity of love, always so much stronger than hate, clasped he_ight, and even lifted her from the floor in the struggle that they had. Th_wo hands of Madame Defarge buffeted and tore her face; but, Miss Pross, wit_er head down, held her round the waist, and clung to her with more than th_old of a drowning woman.
  • Soon, Madame Defarge’s hands ceased to strike, and felt at her encircle_aist. “It is under my arm,” said Miss Pross, in smothered tones, “you shal_ot draw it. I am stronger than you, I bless Heaven for it. I hold you til_ne or other of us faints or dies!”
  • Madame Defarge’s hands were at her bosom. Miss Pross looked up, saw what i_as, struck at it, struck out a flash and a crash, and stood alone—blinde_ith smoke.
  • All this was in a second. As the smoke cleared, leaving an awful stillness, i_assed out on the air, like the soul of the furious woman whose body la_ifeless on the ground.
  • In the first fright and horror of her situation, Miss Pross passed the body a_ar from it as she could, and ran down the stairs to call for fruitless help.
  • Happily, she bethought herself of the consequences of what she did, in time t_heck herself and go back. It was dreadful to go in at the door again; but, she did go in, and even went near it, to get the bonnet and other things tha_he must wear. These she put on, out on the staircase, first shutting an_ocking the door and taking away the key. She then sat down on the stairs _ew moments to breathe and to cry, and then got up and hurried away.
  • By good fortune she had a veil on her bonnet, or she could hardly have gon_long the streets without being stopped. By good fortune, too, she wa_aturally so peculiar in appearance as not to show disfigurement like an_ther woman. She needed both advantages, for the marks of gripping finger_ere deep in her face, and her hair was torn, and her dress (hastily compose_ith unsteady hands) was clutched and dragged a hundred ways.
  • In crossing the bridge, she dropped the door key in the river. Arriving at th_athedral some few minutes before her escort, and waiting there, she thought, what if the key were already taken in a net, what if it were identified, wha_f the door were opened and the remains discovered, what if she were stoppe_t the gate, sent to prison, and charged with murder! In the midst of thes_luttering thoughts, the escort appeared, took her in, and took her away.
  • “Is there any noise in the streets?” she asked him.
  • “The usual noises,” Mr. Cruncher replied; and looked surprised by the questio_nd by her aspect.
  • “I don’t hear you,” said Miss Pross. “What do you say?”
  • It was in vain for Mr. Cruncher to repeat what he said; Miss Pross could no_ear him. “So I’ll nod my head,” thought Mr. Cruncher, amazed, “at all event_he’ll see that.” And she did.
  • “Is there any noise in the streets now?” asked Miss Pross again, presently.
  • Again Mr. Cruncher nodded his head.
  • “I don’t hear it.”
  • “Gone deaf in an hour?” said Mr. Cruncher, ruminating, with his mind muc_isturbed; “wot’s come to her?”
  • “I feel,” said Miss Pross, “as if there had been a flash and a crash, and tha_rash was the last thing I should ever hear in this life.”
  • “Blest if she ain’t in a queer condition!” said Mr. Cruncher, more and mor_isturbed. “Wot can she have been a takin’, to keep her courage up? Hark!
  • There’s the roll of them dreadful carts! You can hear that, miss?”
  • “I can hear,” said Miss Pross, seeing that he spoke to her, “nothing. O, m_ood man, there was first a great crash, and then a great stillness, and tha_tillness seems to be fixed and unchangeable, never to be broken any more a_ong as my life lasts.”
  • “If she don’t hear the roll of those dreadful carts, now very nigh thei_ourney’s end,” said Mr. Cruncher, glancing over his shoulder, “it’s m_pinion that indeed she never will hear anything else in this world.”
  • And indeed she never did.