Madame Defarge and monsieur her husband returned amicably to the bosom o_aint Antoine, while a speck in a blue cap toiled through the darkness, an_hrough the dust, and down the weary miles of avenue by the wayside, slowl_ending towards that point of the compass where the chateau of Monsieur th_arquis, now in his grave, listened to the whispering trees. Such ampl_eisure had the stone faces, now, for listening to the trees and to th_ountain, that the few village scarecrows who, in their quest for herbs to ea_nd fragments of dead stick to burn, strayed within sight of the great ston_ourtyard and terrace staircase, had it borne in upon their starved fancy tha_he expression of the faces was altered. A rumour just lived in th_illage—had a faint and bare existence there, as its people had—that when th_nife struck home, the faces changed, from faces of pride to faces of ange_nd pain; also, that when that dangling figure was hauled up forty feet abov_he fountain, they changed again, and bore a cruel look of being avenged, which they would henceforth bear for ever. In the stone face over the grea_indow of the bed-chamber where the murder was done, two fine dints wer_ointed out in the sculptured nose, which everybody recognised, and whic_obody had seen of old; and on the scarce occasions when two or three ragge_easants emerged from the crowd to take a hurried peep at Monsieur the Marqui_etrified, a skinny finger would not have pointed to it for a minute, befor_hey all started away among the moss and leaves, like the more fortunate hare_ho could find a living there.
Chateau and hut, stone face and dangling figure, the red stain on the ston_loor, and the pure water in the village well—thousands of acres of land—_hole province of France—all France itself—lay under the night sky, concentrated into a faint hair-breadth line. So does a whole world, with al_ts greatnesses and littlenesses, lie in a twinkling star. And as mere huma_nowledge can split a ray of light and analyse the manner of its composition, so, sublimer intelligences may read in the feeble shining of this earth o_urs, every thought and act, every vice and virtue, of every responsibl_reature on it.
The Defarges, husband and wife, came lumbering under the starlight, in thei_ublic vehicle, to that gate of Paris whereunto their journey naturall_ended. There was the usual stoppage at the barrier guardhouse, and the usua_anterns came glancing forth for the usual examination and inquiry. Monsieu_efarge alighted; knowing one or two of the soldiery there, and one of th_olice. The latter he was intimate with, and affectionately embraced.
When Saint Antoine had again enfolded the Defarges in his dusky wings, an_hey, having finally alighted near the Saint’s boundaries, were picking thei_ay on foot through the black mud and offal of his streets, Madame Defarg_poke to her husband:
“Say then, my friend; what did Jacques of the police tell thee?”
“Very little to-night, but all he knows. There is another spy commissioned fo_ur quarter. There may be many more, for all that he can say, but he knows o_ne.”
“Eh well!” said Madame Defarge, raising her eyebrows with a cool business air.
“It is necessary to register him. How do they call that man?”
“He is English.”
“So much the better. His name?”
“Barsad,” said Defarge, making it French by pronunciation. But, he had been s_areful to get it accurately, that he then spelt it with perfect correctness.
“Barsad,” repeated madame. “Good. Christian name?”
“John Barsad,” repeated madame, after murmuring it once to herself. “Good. Hi_ppearance; is it known?”
“Age, about forty years; height, about five feet nine; black hair; complexio_ark; generally, rather handsome visage; eyes dark, face thin, long, an_allow; nose aquiline, but not straight, having a peculiar inclination toward_he left cheek; expression, therefore, sinister.”
“Eh my faith. It is a portrait!” said madame, laughing. “He shall b_egistered to-morrow.”
They turned into the wine-shop, which was closed (for it was midnight), an_here Madame Defarge immediately took her post at her desk, counted the smal_oneys that had been taken during her absence, examined the stock, wen_hrough the entries in the book, made other entries of her own, checked th_erving man in every possible way, and finally dismissed him to bed. Then sh_urned out the contents of the bowl of money for the second time, and bega_notting them up in her handkerchief, in a chain of separate knots, for saf_eeping through the night. All this while, Defarge, with his pipe in hi_outh, walked up and down, complacently admiring, but never interfering; i_hich condition, indeed, as to the business and his domestic affairs, h_alked up and down through life.
The night was hot, and the shop, close shut and surrounded by so foul _eighbourhood, was ill-smelling. Monsieur Defarge’s olfactory sense was by n_eans delicate, but the stock of wine smelt much stronger than it ever tasted, and so did the stock of rum and brandy and aniseed. He whiffed the compound o_cents away, as he put down his smoked-out pipe.
“You are fatigued,” said madame, raising her glance as she knotted the money.
“There are only the usual odours.”
“I am a little tired,” her husband acknowledged.
“You are a little depressed, too,” said madame, whose quick eyes had neve_een so intent on the accounts, but they had had a ray or two for him. “Oh, the men, the men!”
“But my dear!” began Defarge.
“But my dear!” repeated madame, nodding firmly; “but my dear! You are faint o_eart to-night, my dear!”
“Well, then,” said Defarge, as if a thought were wrung out of his breast, “i_s a long time.”
“It is a long time,” repeated his wife; “and when is it not a long time?
Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule.”
“It does not take a long time to strike a man with Lightning,” said Defarge.
“How long,” demanded madame, composedly, “does it take to make and store th_ightning? Tell me.”
Defarge raised his head thoughtfully, as if there were something in that too.
“It does not take a long time,” said madame, “for an earthquake to swallow _own. Eh well! Tell me how long it takes to prepare the earthquake?”
“A long time, I suppose,” said Defarge.
“But when it is ready, it takes place, and grinds to pieces everything befor_t. In the meantime, it is always preparing, though it is not seen or heard.
That is your consolation. Keep it.”
She tied a knot with flashing eyes, as if it throttled a foe.
“I tell thee,” said madame, extending her right hand, for emphasis, “tha_lthough it is a long time on the road, it is on the road and coming. I tel_hee it never retreats, and never stops. I tell thee it is always advancing.
Look around and consider the lives of all the world that we know, consider th_aces of all the world that we know, consider the rage and discontent to whic_he Jacquerie addresses itself with more and more of certainty every hour. Ca_uch things last? Bah! I mock you.”
“My brave wife,” returned Defarge, standing before her with his head a littl_ent, and his hands clasped at his back, like a docile and attentive pupi_efore his catechist, “I do not question all this. But it has lasted a lon_ime, and it is possible—you know well, my wife, it is possible—that it ma_ot come, during our lives.”
“Eh well! How then?” demanded madame, tying another knot, as if there wer_nother enemy strangled.
“Well!” said Defarge, with a half complaining and half apologetic shrug. “W_hall not see the triumph.”
“We shall have helped it,” returned madame, with her extended hand in stron_ction. “Nothing that we do, is done in vain. I believe, with all my soul, that we shall see the triumph. But even if not, even if I knew certainly not, show me the neck of an aristocrat and tyrant, and still I would—”
Then madame, with her teeth set, tied a very terrible knot indeed.
“Hold!” cried Defarge, reddening a little as if he felt charged wit_owardice; “I too, my dear, will stop at nothing.”
“Yes! But it is your weakness that you sometimes need to see your victim an_our opportunity, to sustain you. Sustain yourself without that. When the tim_omes, let loose a tiger and a devil; but wait for the time with the tiger an_he devil chained—not shown—yet always ready.”
Madame enforced the conclusion of this piece of advice by striking her littl_ounter with her chain of money as if she knocked its brains out, and the_athering the heavy handkerchief under her arm in a serene manner, an_bserving that it was time to go to bed.
Next noontide saw the admirable woman in her usual place in the wine-shop, knitting away assiduously. A rose lay beside her, and if she now and the_lanced at the flower, it was with no infraction of her usual preoccupied air.
There were a few customers, drinking or not drinking, standing or seated, sprinkled about. The day was very hot, and heaps of flies, who were extendin_heir inquisitive and adventurous perquisitions into all the glutinous littl_lasses near madame, fell dead at the bottom. Their decease made no impressio_n the other flies out promenading, who looked at them in the coolest manner (as if they themselves were elephants, or something as far removed), unti_hey met the same fate. Curious to consider how heedless flies are!—perhap_hey thought as much at Court that sunny summer day.
A figure entering at the door threw a shadow on Madame Defarge which she fel_o be a new one. She laid down her knitting, and began to pin her rose in he_ead-dress, before she looked at the figure.
It was curious. The moment Madame Defarge took up the rose, the customer_eased talking, and began gradually to drop out of the wine-shop.
“Good day, madame,” said the new-comer.
“Good day, monsieur.”
She said it aloud, but added to herself, as she resumed her knitting: “Hah!
Good day, age about forty, height about five feet nine, black hair, generall_ather handsome visage, complexion dark, eyes dark, thin, long and sallo_ace, aquiline nose but not straight, having a peculiar inclination toward_he left cheek which imparts a sinister expression! Good day, one and all!”
“Have the goodness to give me a little glass of old cognac, and a mouthful o_ool fresh water, madame.”
Madame complied with a polite air.
“Marvellous cognac this, madame!”
It was the first time it had ever been so complemented, and Madame Defarg_new enough of its antecedents to know better. She said, however, that th_ognac was flattered, and took up her knitting. The visitor watched he_ingers for a few moments, and took the opportunity of observing the place i_eneral.
“You knit with great skill, madame.”
“I am accustomed to it.”
“A pretty pattern too!”
“You think so?” said madame, looking at him with a smile.
“Decidedly. May one ask what it is for?”
“Pastime,” said madame, still looking at him with a smile while her finger_oved nimbly.
“Not for use?”
“That depends. I may find a use for it one day. If I do—Well,” said madame, drawing a breath and nodding her head with a stern kind of coquetry, “I’ll us_t!”
It was remarkable; but, the taste of Saint Antoine seemed to be decidedl_pposed to a rose on the head-dress of Madame Defarge. Two men had entere_eparately, and had been about to order drink, when, catching sight of tha_ovelty, they faltered, made a pretence of looking about as if for some frien_ho was not there, and went away. Nor, of those who had been there when thi_isitor entered, was there one left. They had all dropped off. The spy ha_ept his eyes open, but had been able to detect no sign. They had lounged awa_n a poverty-stricken, purposeless, accidental manner, quite natural an_nimpeachable.
“John,” thought madame, checking off her work as her fingers knitted, and he_yes looked at the stranger. “Stay long enough, and I shall knit ’Barsad’ before you go.”
“You have a husband, madame?”
“Business seems bad?”
“Business is very bad; the people are so poor.”
“Ah, the unfortunate, miserable people! So oppressed, too—as you say.”
“As you say,” madame retorted, correcting him, and deftly knitting an extr_omething into his name that boded him no good.
“Pardon me; certainly it was I who said so, but you naturally think so. O_ourse.”
“I think?” returned madame, in a high voice. “I and my husband have enough t_o to keep this wine-shop open, without thinking. All we think, here, is ho_o live. That is the subject we think of, and it gives us, from morning t_ight, enough to think about, without embarrassing our heads concernin_thers. I think for others? No, no.”
The spy, who was there to pick up any crumbs he could find or make, did no_llow his baffled state to express itself in his sinister face; but, stoo_ith an air of gossiping gallantry, leaning his elbow on Madame Defarge’_ittle counter, and occasionally sipping his cognac.
“A bad business this, madame, of Gaspard’s execution. Ah! the poor Gaspard!” With a sigh of great compassion.
“My faith!” returned madame, coolly and lightly, “if people use knives fo_uch purposes, they have to pay for it. He knew beforehand what the price o_is luxury was; he has paid the price.”
“I believe,” said the spy, dropping his soft voice to a tone that invite_onfidence, and expressing an injured revolutionary susceptibility in ever_uscle of his wicked face: “I believe there is much compassion and anger i_his neighbourhood, touching the poor fellow? Between ourselves.”
“Is there?” asked madame, vacantly.
“Is there not?”
“—Here is my husband!” said Madame Defarge.
As the keeper of the wine-shop entered at the door, the spy saluted him b_ouching his hat, and saying, with an engaging smile, “Good day, Jacques!” Defarge stopped short, and stared at him.
“Good day, Jacques!” the spy repeated; with not quite so much confidence, o_uite so easy a smile under the stare.
“You deceive yourself, monsieur,” returned the keeper of the wine-shop. “Yo_istake me for another. That is not my name. I am Ernest Defarge.”
“It is all the same,” said the spy, airily, but discomfited too: “good day!”
“Good day!” answered Defarge, drily.
“I was saying to madame, with whom I had the pleasure of chatting when yo_ntered, that they tell me there is—and no wonder!—much sympathy and anger i_aint Antoine, touching the unhappy fate of poor Gaspard.”
“No one has told me so,” said Defarge, shaking his head. “I know nothing o_t.”
Having said it, he passed behind the little counter, and stood with his han_n the back of his wife’s chair, looking over that barrier at the person t_hom they were both opposed, and whom either of them would have shot with th_reatest satisfaction.
The spy, well used to his business, did not change his unconscious attitude, but drained his little glass of cognac, took a sip of fresh water, and aske_or another glass of cognac. Madame Defarge poured it out for him, took to he_nitting again, and hummed a little song over it.
“You seem to know this quarter well; that is to say, better than I do?” observed Defarge.
“Not at all, but I hope to know it better. I am so profoundly interested i_ts miserable inhabitants.”
“Hah!” muttered Defarge.
“The pleasure of conversing with you, Monsieur Defarge, recalls to me,” pursued the spy, “that I have the honour of cherishing some interestin_ssociations with your name.”
“Indeed!” said Defarge, with much indifference.
“Yes, indeed. When Doctor Manette was released, you, his old domestic, had th_harge of him, I know. He was delivered to you. You see I am informed of th_ircumstances?”
“Such is the fact, certainly,” said Defarge. He had had it conveyed to him, i_n accidental touch of his wife’s elbow as she knitted and warbled, that h_ould do best to answer, but always with brevity.
“It was to you,” said the spy, “that his daughter came; and it was from you_are that his daughter took him, accompanied by a neat brown monsieur; how i_e called?—in a little wig—Lorry—of the bank of Tellson and Company—over t_ngland.”
“Such is the fact,” repeated Defarge.
“Very interesting remembrances!” said the spy. “I have known Doctor Manett_nd his daughter, in England.”
“Yes?” said Defarge.
“You don’t hear much about them now?” said the spy.
“No,” said Defarge.
“In effect,” madame struck in, looking up from her work and her little song, “we never hear about them. We received the news of their safe arrival, an_erhaps another letter, or perhaps two; but, since then, they have graduall_aken their road in life—we, ours—and we have held no correspondence.”
“Perfectly so, madame,” replied the spy. “She is going to be married.”
“Going?” echoed madame. “She was pretty enough to have been married long ago.
You English are cold, it seems to me.”
“Oh! You know I am English.”
“I perceive your tongue is,” returned madame; “and what the tongue is, _uppose the man is.”
He did not take the identification as a compliment; but he made the best o_t, and turned it off with a laugh. After sipping his cognac to the end, h_dded:
“Yes, Miss Manette is going to be married. But not to an Englishman; to on_ho, like herself, is French by birth. And speaking of Gaspard (ah, poo_aspard! It was cruel, cruel!), it is a curious thing that she is going t_arry the nephew of Monsieur the Marquis, for whom Gaspard was exalted to tha_eight of so many feet; in other words, the present Marquis. But he live_nknown in England, he is no Marquis there; he is Mr. Charles Darnay.
D’Aulnais is the name of his mother’s family.”
Madame Defarge knitted steadily, but the intelligence had a palpable effec_pon her husband. Do what he would, behind the little counter, as to th_triking of a light and the lighting of his pipe, he was troubled, and hi_and was not trustworthy. The spy would have been no spy if he had failed t_ee it, or to record it in his mind.
Having made, at least, this one hit, whatever it might prove to be worth, an_o customers coming in to help him to any other, Mr. Barsad paid for what h_ad drunk, and took his leave: taking occasion to say, in a genteel manner, before he departed, that he looked forward to the pleasure of seeing Monsieu_nd Madame Defarge again. For some minutes after he had emerged into the oute_resence of Saint Antoine, the husband and wife remained exactly as he ha_eft them, lest he should come back.
“Can it be true,” said Defarge, in a low voice, looking down at his wife as h_tood smoking with his hand on the back of her chair: “what he has said o_a’amselle Manette?”
“As he has said it,” returned madame, lifting her eyebrows a little, “it i_robably false. But it may be true.”
“If it is—” Defarge began, and stopped.
“If it is?” repeated his wife.
“—And if it does come, while we live to see it triumph—I hope, for her sake, Destiny will keep her husband out of France.”
“Her husband’s destiny,” said Madame Defarge, with her usual composure, “wil_ake him where he is to go, and will lead him to the end that is to end him.
That is all I know.”
“But it is very strange—now, at least, is it not very strange”—said Defarge, rather pleading with his wife to induce her to admit it, “that, after all ou_ympathy for Monsieur her father, and herself, her husband’s name should b_roscribed under your hand at this moment, by the side of that infernal dog’_ho has just left us?”
“Stranger things than that will happen when it does come,” answered madame. “_ave them both here, of a certainty; and they are both here for their merits; that is enough.”
She roiled up her knitting when she had said those words, and presently too_he rose out of the handkerchief that was wound about her head. Either Sain_ntoine had an instinctive sense that the objectionable decoration was gone, or Saint Antoine was on the watch for its disappearance; howbeit, the Sain_ook courage to lounge in, very shortly afterwards, and the wine-sho_ecovered its habitual aspect.
In the evening, at which season of all others Saint Antoine turned himsel_nside out, and sat on door-steps and window-ledges, and came to the corner_f vile streets and courts, for a breath of air, Madame Defarge with her wor_n her hand was accustomed to pass from place to place and from group t_roup: a Missionary—there were many like her—such as the world will do wel_ever to breed again. All the women knitted. They knitted worthless things; but, the mechanical work was a mechanical substitute for eating and drinking; the hands moved for the jaws and the digestive apparatus: if the bony finger_ad been still, the stomachs would have been more famine-pinched.
But, as the fingers went, the eyes went, and the thoughts. And as Madam_efarge moved on from group to group, all three went quicker and fiercer amon_very little knot of women that she had spoken with, and left behind.
Her husband smoked at his door, looking after her with admiration. “A grea_oman,” said he, “a strong woman, a grand woman, a frightfully grand woman!”
Darkness closed around, and then came the ringing of church bells and th_istant beating of the military drums in the Palace Courtyard, as the wome_at knitting, knitting. Darkness encompassed them. Another darkness wa_losing in as surely, when the church bells, then ringing pleasantly in man_n airy steeple over France, should be melted into thundering cannon; when th_ilitary drums should be beating to drown a wretched voice, that night al_otent as the voice of Power and Plenty, Freedom and Life. So much was closin_n about the women who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selve_ere closing in around a structure yet unbuilt, where they were to si_nitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.