There had been earlier drinking than usual in the wine-shop of Monsieu_efarge. As early as six o’clock in the morning, sallow faces peeping throug_ts barred windows had descried other faces within, bending over measures o_ine. Monsieur Defarge sold a very thin wine at the best of times, but i_ould seem to have been an unusually thin wine that he sold at this time. _our wine, moreover, or a souring, for its influence on the mood of those wh_rank it was to make them gloomy. No vivacious Bacchanalian flame leaped ou_f the pressed grape of Monsieur Defarge: but, a smouldering fire that burn_n the dark, lay hidden in the dregs of it.
This had been the third morning in succession, on which there had been earl_rinking at the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge. It had begun on Monday, an_ere was Wednesday come. There had been more of early brooding than drinking; for, many men had listened and whispered and slunk about there from the tim_f the opening of the door, who could not have laid a piece of money on th_ounter to save their souls. These were to the full as interested in th_lace, however, as if they could have commanded whole barrels of wine; an_hey glided from seat to seat, and from corner to corner, swallowing talk i_ieu of drink, with greedy looks.
Notwithstanding an unusual flow of company, the master of the wine-shop wa_ot visible. He was not missed; for, nobody who crossed the threshold looke_or him, nobody asked for him, nobody wondered to see only Madame Defarge i_er seat, presiding over the distribution of wine, with a bowl of battere_mall coins before her, as much defaced and beaten out of their origina_mpress as the small coinage of humanity from whose ragged pockets they ha_ome.
A suspended interest and a prevalent absence of mind, were perhaps observed b_he spies who looked in at the wine-shop, as they looked in at every place, high and low, from the kings palace to the criminal’s gaol. Games at card_anguished, players at dominoes musingly built towers with them, drinkers dre_igures on the tables with spilt drops of wine, Madame Defarge herself picke_ut the pattern on her sleeve with her toothpick, and saw and heard somethin_naudible and invisible a long way off.
Thus, Saint Antoine in this vinous feature of his, until midday. It was hig_oontide, when two dusty men passed through his streets and under his swingin_amps: of whom, one was Monsieur Defarge: the other a mender of roads in _lue cap. All adust and athirst, the two entered the wine-shop. Their arriva_ad lighted a kind of fire in the breast of Saint Antoine, fast spreading a_hey came along, which stirred and flickered in flames of faces at most door_nd windows. Yet, no one had followed them, and no man spoke when they entere_he wine-shop, though the eyes of every man there were turned upon them.
“Good day, gentlemen!” said Monsieur Defarge.
It may have been a signal for loosening the general tongue. It elicited a_nswering chorus of “Good day!”
“It is bad weather, gentlemen,” said Defarge, shaking his head.
Upon which, every man looked at his neighbour, and then all cast down thei_yes and sat silent. Except one man, who got up and went out.
“My wife,” said Defarge aloud, addressing Madame Defarge: “I have travelle_ertain leagues with this good mender of roads, called Jacques. I met him—b_ccident—a day and half’s journey out of Paris. He is a good child, thi_ender of roads, called Jacques. Give him to drink, my wife!”
A second man got up and went out. Madame Defarge set wine before the mender o_oads called Jacques, who doffed his blue cap to the company, and drank. I_he breast of his blouse he carried some coarse dark bread; he ate of thi_etween whiles, and sat munching and drinking near Madame Defarge’s counter. _hird man got up and went out.
Defarge refreshed himself with a draught of wine—but, he took less than wa_iven to the stranger, as being himself a man to whom it was no rarity—an_tood waiting until the countryman had made his breakfast. He looked at no on_resent, and no one now looked at him; not even Madame Defarge, who had take_p her knitting, and was at work.
“Have you finished your repast, friend?” he asked, in due season.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Come, then! You shall see the apartment that I told you you could occupy. I_ill suit you to a marvel.”
Out of the wine-shop into the street, out of the street into a courtyard, ou_f the courtyard up a steep staircase, out of the staircase into _arret,—formerly the garret where a white-haired man sat on a low bench, stooping forward and very busy, making shoes.
No white-haired man was there now; but, the three men were there who had gon_ut of the wine-shop singly. And between them and the white-haired man afa_ff, was the one small link, that they had once looked in at him through th_hinks in the wall.
Defarge closed the door carefully, and spoke in a subdued voice:
“Jacques One, Jacques Two, Jacques Three! This is the witness encountered b_ppointment, by me, Jacques Four. He will tell you all. Speak, Jacques Five!”
The mender of roads, blue cap in hand, wiped his swarthy forehead with it, an_aid, “Where shall I commence, monsieur?”
“Commence,” was Monsieur Defarge’s not unreasonable reply, “at th_ommencement.”
“I saw him then, messieurs,” began the mender of roads, “a year ago thi_unning summer, underneath the carriage of the Marquis, hanging by the chain.
Behold the manner of it. I leaving my work on the road, the sun going to bed, the carriage of the Marquis slowly ascending the hill, he hanging by th_hain—like this.”
Again the mender of roads went through the whole performance; in which h_ught to have been perfect by that time, seeing that it had been th_nfallible resource and indispensable entertainment of his village during _hole year.
Jacques One struck in, and asked if he had ever seen the man before?
“Never,” answered the mender of roads, recovering his perpendicular.
Jacques Three demanded how he afterwards recognised him then?
“By his tall figure,” said the mender of roads, softly, and with his finger a_is nose. “When Monsieur the Marquis demands that evening, ‘Say, what is h_ike?’ I make response, ‘Tall as a spectre.’”
“You should have said, short as a dwarf,” returned Jacques Two.
“But what did I know? The deed was not then accomplished, neither did h_onfide in me. Observe! Under those circumstances even, I do not offer m_estimony. Monsieur the Marquis indicates me with his finger, standing nea_ur little fountain, and says, ‘To me! Bring that rascal!’ My faith, messieurs, I offer nothing.”
“He is right there, Jacques,” murmured Defarge, to him who had interrupted.
“Good!” said the mender of roads, with an air of mystery. “The tall man i_ost, and he is sought—how many months? Nine, ten, eleven?”
“No matter, the number,” said Defarge. “He is well hidden, but at last he i_nluckily found. Go on!”
“I am again at work upon the hill-side, and the sun is again about to go t_ed. I am collecting my tools to descend to my cottage down in the villag_elow, where it is already dark, when I raise my eyes, and see coming over th_ill six soldiers. In the midst of them is a tall man with his arms bound—tie_o his sides—like this!”
With the aid of his indispensable cap, he represented a man with his elbow_ound fast at his hips, with cords that were knotted behind him.
“I stand aside, messieurs, by my heap of stones, to see the soldiers and thei_risoner pass (for it is a solitary road, that, where any spectacle is wel_orth looking at), and at first, as they approach, I see no more than tha_hey are six soldiers with a tall man bound, and that they are almost black t_y sight—except on the side of the sun going to bed, where they have a re_dge, messieurs. Also, I see that their long shadows are on the hollow ridg_n the opposite side of the road, and are on the hill above it, and are lik_he shadows of giants. Also, I see that they are covered with dust, and tha_he dust moves with them as they come, tramp, tramp! But when they advanc_uite near to me, I recognise the tall man, and he recognises me. Ah, but h_ould be well content to precipitate himself over the hill-side once again, a_n the evening when he and I first encountered, close to the same spot!”
He described it as if he were there, and it was evident that he saw i_ividly; perhaps he had not seen much in his life.
“I do not show the soldiers that I recognise the tall man; he does not sho_he soldiers that he recognises me; we do it, and we know it, with our eyes.
‘Come on!’ says the chief of that company, pointing to the village, ‘bring hi_ast to his tomb!’ and they bring him faster. I follow. His arms are swelle_ecause of being bound so tight, his wooden shoes are large and clumsy, and h_s lame. Because he is lame, and consequently slow, they drive him with thei_uns—like this!”
He imitated the action of a man’s being impelled forward by the butt-ends o_uskets.
“As they descend the hill like madmen running a race, he falls. They laugh an_ick him up again. His face is bleeding and covered with dust, but he canno_ouch it; thereupon they laugh again. They bring him into the village; all th_illage runs to look; they take him past the mill, and up to the prison; al_he village sees the prison gate open in the darkness of the night, an_wallow him—like this!”
He opened his mouth as wide as he could, and shut it with a sounding snap o_is teeth. Observant of his unwillingness to mar the effect by opening i_gain, Defarge said, “Go on, Jacques.”
“All the village,” pursued the mender of roads, on tiptoe and in a low voice, “withdraws; all the village whispers by the fountain; all the village sleeps; all the village dreams of that unhappy one, within the locks and bars of th_rison on the crag, and never to come out of it, except to perish. In th_orning, with my tools upon my shoulder, eating my morsel of black bread as _o, I make a circuit by the prison, on my way to my work. There I see him, high up, behind the bars of a lofty iron cage, bloody and dusty as last night, looking through. He has no hand free, to wave to me; I dare not call to him; he regards me like a dead man.”
Defarge and the three glanced darkly at one another. The looks of all of the_ere dark, repressed, and revengeful, as they listened to the countryman’_tory; the manner of all of them, while it was secret, was authoritative too.
They had the air of a rough tribunal; Jacques One and Two sitting on the ol_allet-bed, each with his chin resting on his hand, and his eyes intent on th_oad-mender; Jacques Three, equally intent, on one knee behind them, with hi_gitated hand always gliding over the network of fine nerves about his mout_nd nose; Defarge standing between them and the narrator, whom he ha_tationed in the light of the window, by turns looking from him to them, an_rom them to him.
“Go on, Jacques,” said Defarge.
“He remains up there in his iron cage some days. The village looks at him b_tealth, for it is afraid. But it always looks up, from a distance, at th_rison on the crag; and in the evening, when the work of the day is achieve_nd it assembles to gossip at the fountain, all faces are turned towards th_rison. Formerly, they were turned towards the posting-house; now, they ar_urned towards the prison. They whisper at the fountain, that althoug_ondemned to death he will not be executed; they say that petitions have bee_resented in Paris, showing that he was enraged and made mad by the death o_is child; they say that a petition has been presented to the King himself.
What do I know? It is possible. Perhaps yes, perhaps no.”
“Listen then, Jacques,” Number One of that name sternly interposed. “Know tha_ petition was presented to the King and Queen. All here, yourself excepted, saw the King take it, in his carriage in the street, sitting beside the Queen.
It is Defarge whom you see here, who, at the hazard of his life, darted ou_efore the horses, with the petition in his hand.”
“And once again listen, Jacques!” said the kneeling Number Three: his finger_ver wandering over and over those fine nerves, with a strikingly greedy air, as if he hungered for something—that was neither food nor drink; “the guard, horse and foot, surrounded the petitioner, and struck him blows. You hear?”
“I hear, messieurs.”
“Go on then,” said Defarge.
“Again; on the other hand, they whisper at the fountain,” resumed th_ountryman, “that he is brought down into our country to be executed on th_pot, and that he will very certainly be executed. They even whisper tha_ecause he has slain Monseigneur, and because Monseigneur was the father o_is tenants—serfs—what you will—he will be executed as a parricide. One ol_an says at the fountain, that his right hand, armed with the knife, will b_urnt off before his face; that, into wounds which will be made in his arms, his breast, and his legs, there will be poured boiling oil, melted lead, ho_esin, wax, and sulphur; finally, that he will be torn limb from limb by fou_trong horses. That old man says, all this was actually done to a prisoner wh_ade an attempt on the life of the late King, Louis Fifteen. But how do I kno_f he lies? I am not a scholar.”
“Listen once again then, Jacques!” said the man with the restless hand and th_raving air. “The name of that prisoner was Damiens, and it was all done i_pen day, in the open streets of this city of Paris; and nothing was mor_oticed in the vast concourse that saw it done, than the crowd of ladies o_uality and fashion, who were full of eager attention to the last—to the last, Jacques, prolonged until nightfall, when he had lost two legs and an arm, an_till breathed! And it was done—why, how old are you?”
“Thirty-five,” said the mender of roads, who looked sixty.
“It was done when you were more than ten years old; you might have seen it.”
“Enough!” said Defarge, with grim impatience. “Long live the Devil! Go on.”
“Well! Some whisper this, some whisper that; they speak of nothing else; eve_he fountain appears to fall to that tune. At length, on Sunday night when al_he village is asleep, come soldiers, winding down from the prison, and thei_uns ring on the stones of the little street. Workmen dig, workmen hammer, soldiers laugh and sing; in the morning, by the fountain, there is raised _allows forty feet high, poisoning the water.”
The mender of roads looked through rather than at the low ceiling, and pointe_s if he saw the gallows somewhere in the sky.
“All work is stopped, all assemble there, nobody leads the cows out, the cow_re there with the rest. At midday, the roll of drums. Soldiers have marche_nto the prison in the night, and he is in the midst of many soldiers. He i_ound as before, and in his mouth there is a gag—tied so, with a tight string, making him look almost as if he laughed.” He suggested it, by creasing hi_ace with his two thumbs, from the corners of his mouth to his ears. “On th_op of the gallows is fixed the knife, blade upwards, with its point in th_ir. He is hanged there forty feet high—and is left hanging, poisoning th_ater.”
They looked at one another, as he used his blue cap to wipe his face, on whic_he perspiration had started afresh while he recalled the spectacle.
“It is frightful, messieurs. How can the women and the children draw water!
Who can gossip of an evening, under that shadow! Under it, have I said? When _eft the village, Monday evening as the sun was going to bed, and looked bac_rom the hill, the shadow struck across the church, across the mill, acros_he prison—seemed to strike across the earth, messieurs, to where the sk_ests upon it!”
The hungry man gnawed one of his fingers as he looked at the other three, an_is finger quivered with the craving that was on him.
“That’s all, messieurs. I left at sunset (as I had been warned to do), and _alked on, that night and half next day, until I met (as I was warned _hould) this comrade. With him, I came on, now riding and now walking, throug_he rest of yesterday and through last night. And here you see me!”
After a gloomy silence, the first Jacques said, “Good! You have acted an_ecounted faithfully. Will you wait for us a little, outside the door?”
“Very willingly,” said the mender of roads. Whom Defarge escorted to the to_f the stairs, and, leaving seated there, returned.
The three had risen, and their heads were together when he came back to th_arret.
“How say you, Jacques?” demanded Number One. “To be registered?”
“To be registered, as doomed to destruction,” returned Defarge.
“Magnificent!” croaked the man with the craving.
“The chateau, and all the race?” inquired the first.
“The chateau and all the race,” returned Defarge. “Extermination.”
The hungry man repeated, in a rapturous croak, “Magnificent!” and bega_nawing another finger.
“Are you sure,” asked Jacques Two, of Defarge, “that no embarrassment ca_rise from our manner of keeping the register? Without doubt it is safe, fo_o one beyond ourselves can decipher it; but shall we always be able t_ecipher it—or, I ought to say, will she?”
“Jacques,” returned Defarge, drawing himself up, “if madame my wife undertoo_o keep the register in her memory alone, she would not lose a word of it—no_ syllable of it. Knitted, in her own stitches and her own symbols, it wil_lways be as plain to her as the sun. Confide in Madame Defarge. It would b_asier for the weakest poltroon that lives, to erase himself from existence, than to erase one letter of his name or crimes from the knitted register o_adame Defarge.”
There was a murmur of confidence and approval, and then the man who hungered, asked: “Is this rustic to be sent back soon? I hope so. He is very simple; i_e not a little dangerous?”
“He knows nothing,” said Defarge; “at least nothing more than would easil_levate himself to a gallows of the same height. I charge myself with him; le_im remain with me; I will take care of him, and set him on his road. H_ishes to see the fine world—the King, the Queen, and Court; let him see the_n Sunday.”
“What?” exclaimed the hungry man, staring. “Is it a good sign, that he wishe_o see Royalty and Nobility?”
“Jacques,” said Defarge; “judiciously show a cat milk, if you wish her t_hirst for it. Judiciously show a dog his natural prey, if you wish him t_ring it down one day.”
Nothing more was said, and the mender of roads, being found already dozing o_he topmost stair, was advised to lay himself down on the pallet-bed and tak_ome rest. He needed no persuasion, and was soon asleep.
Worse quarters than Defarge’s wine-shop, could easily have been found in Pari_or a provincial slave of that degree. Saving for a mysterious dread of madam_y which he was constantly haunted, his life was very new and agreeable. But, madame sat all day at her counter, so expressly unconscious of him, and s_articularly determined not to perceive that his being there had any connexio_ith anything below the surface, that he shook in his wooden shoes wheneve_is eye lighted on her. For, he contended with himself that it was impossibl_o foresee what that lady might pretend next; and he felt assured that if sh_hould take it into her brightly ornamented head to pretend that she had see_im do a murder and afterwards flay the victim, she would infallibly g_hrough with it until the play was played out.
Therefore, when Sunday came, the mender of roads was not enchanted (though h_aid he was) to find that madame was to accompany monsieur and himself t_ersailles. It was additionally disconcerting to have madame knitting all th_ay there, in a public conveyance; it was additionally disconcerting yet, t_ave madame in the crowd in the afternoon, still with her knitting in he_ands as the crowd waited to see the carriage of the King and Queen.
“You work hard, madame,” said a man near her.
“Yes,” answered Madame Defarge; “I have a good deal to do.”
“What do you make, madame?”
“For instance,” returned Madame Defarge, composedly, “shrouds.”
The man moved a little further away, as soon as he could, and the mender o_oads fanned himself with his blue cap: feeling it mightily close an_ppressive. If he needed a King and Queen to restore him, he was fortunate i_aving his remedy at hand; for, soon the large-faced King and the fair-face_ueen came in their golden coach, attended by the shining Bull’s Eye of thei_ourt, a glittering multitude of laughing ladies and fine lords; and in jewel_nd silks and powder and splendour and elegantly spurning figures an_andsomely disdainful faces of both sexes, the mender of roads bathed himself, so much to his temporary intoxication, that he cried Long live the King, Lon_ive the Queen, Long live everybody and everything! as if he had never hear_f ubiquitous Jacques in his time. Then, there were gardens, courtyards, terraces, fountains, green banks, more King and Queen, more Bull’s Eye,mor_ords and ladies, more Long live they all! until he absolutely wept wit_entiment. During the whole of this scene, which lasted some three hours, h_ad plenty of shouting and weeping and sentimental company, and throughou_efarge held him by the collar, as if to restrain him from flying at th_bjects of his brief devotion and tearing them to pieces.
“Bravo!” said Defarge, clapping him on the back when it was over, like _atron; “you are a good boy!”
The mender of roads was now coming to himself, and was mistrustful of havin_ade a mistake in his late demonstrations; but no.
“You are the fellow we want,” said Defarge, in his ear; “you make these fool_elieve that it will last for ever. Then, they are the more insolent, and i_s the nearer ended.”
“Hey!” cried the mender of roads, reflectively; “that’s true.”
“These fools know nothing. While they despise your breath, and would stop i_or ever and ever, in you or in a hundred like you rather than in one of thei_wn horses or dogs, they only know what your breath tells them. Let it deceiv_hem, then, a little longer; it cannot deceive them too much.”
Madame Defarge looked superciliously at the client, and nodded i_onfirmation.
“As to you,” said she, “you would shout and shed tears for anything, if i_ade a show and a noise. Say! Would you not?”
“Truly, madame, I think so. For the moment.”
“If you were shown a great heap of dolls, and were set upon them to pluck the_o pieces and despoil them for your own advantage, you would pick out th_ichest and gayest. Say! Would you not?”
“Truly yes, madame.”
“Yes. And if you were shown a flock of birds, unable to fly, and were set upo_hem to strip them of their feathers for your own advantage, you would se_pon the birds of the finest feathers; would you not?”
“It is true, madame.”
“You have seen both dolls and birds to-day,” said Madame Defarge, with a wav_f her hand towards the place where they had last been apparent; “now, g_ome!”