A wonderful corner for echoes, it has been remarked, that corner where th_octor lived. Ever busily winding the golden thread which bound her husband, and her father, and herself, and her old directress and companion, in a lif_f quiet bliss, Lucie sat in the still house in the tranquilly resoundin_orner, listening to the echoing footsteps of years.
At first, there were times, though she was a perfectly happy young wife, whe_er work would slowly fall from her hands, and her eyes would be dimmed. For, there was something coming in the echoes, something light, afar off, an_carcely audible yet, that stirred her heart too much. Fluttering hopes an_oubts—hopes, of a love as yet unknown to her: doubts, of her remaining upo_arth, to enjoy that new delight—divided her breast. Among the echoes then, there would arise the sound of footsteps at her own early grave; and thought_f the husband who would be left so desolate, and who would mourn for her s_uch, swelled to her eyes, and broke like waves.
That time passed, and her little Lucie lay on her bosom. Then, among th_dvancing echoes, there was the tread of her tiny feet and the sound of he_rattling words. Let greater echoes resound as they would, the young mother a_he cradle side could always hear those coming. They came, and the shady hous_as sunny with a child’s laugh, and the Divine friend of children, to whom i_er trouble she had confided hers, seemed to take her child in his arms, as H_ook the child of old, and made it a sacred joy to her.
Ever busily winding the golden thread that bound them all together, weavin_he service of her happy influence through the tissue of all their lives, an_aking it predominate nowhere, Lucie heard in the echoes of years none bu_riendly and soothing sounds. Her husband’s step was strong and prosperou_mong them; her father’s firm and equal. Lo, Miss Pross, in harness of string, awakening the echoes, as an unruly charger, whip-corrected, snorting an_awing the earth under the plane-tree in the garden!
Even when there were sounds of sorrow among the rest, they were not harsh no_ruel. Even when golden hair, like her own, lay in a halo on a pillow roun_he worn face of a little boy, and he said, with a radiant smile, “Dear pap_nd mamma, I am very sorry to leave you both, and to leave my pretty sister; but I am called, and I must go!” those were not tears all of agony that wette_is young mother’s cheek, as the spirit departed from her embrace that ha_een entrusted to it. Suffer them and forbid them not. They see my Father’_ace. O Father, blessed words!
Thus, the rustling of an Angel’s wings got blended with the other echoes, an_hey were not wholly of earth, but had in them that breath of Heaven. Sighs o_he winds that blew over a little garden-tomb were mingled with them also, an_oth were audible to Lucie, in a hushed murmur—like the breathing of a summe_ea asleep upon a sandy shore —as the little Lucie, comically studious at th_ask of the morning, or dressing a doll at her mother’s footstool, chattere_n the tongues of the Two Cities that were blended in her life.
The Echoes rarely answered to the actual tread of Sydney Carton. Some half- dozen times a year, at most, he claimed his privilege of coming in uninvited, and would sit among them through the evening, as he had once done often. H_ever came there heated with wine. And one other thing regarding him wa_hispered in the echoes, which has been whispered by all true echoes for age_nd ages.
No man ever really loved a woman, lost her, and knew her with a blameles_hough an unchanged mind, when she was a wife and a mother, but her childre_ad a strange sympathy with him—an instinctive delicacy of pity for him. Wha_ine hidden sensibilities are touched in such a case, no echoes tell; but i_s so, and it was so here. Carton was the first stranger to whom little Luci_eld out her chubby arms, and he kept his place with her as she grew. Th_ittle boy had spoken of him, almost at the last. “Poor Carton! Kiss him fo_e!”
Mr. Stryver shouldered his way through the law, like some great engine forcin_tself through turbid water, and dragged his useful friend in his wake, like _oat towed astern. As the boat so favoured is usually in a rough plight, an_ostly under water, so, Sydney had a swamped life of it. But, easy and stron_ustom, unhappily so much easier and stronger in him than any stimulatin_ense of desert or disgrace, made it the life he was to lead; and he no mor_hought of emerging from his state of lion’s jackal, than any real jackal ma_e supposed to think of rising to be a lion. Stryver was rich; had married _lorid widow with property and three boys, who had nothing particularl_hining about them but the straight hair of their dumpling heads.
These three young gentlemen, Mr. Stryver, exuding patronage of the mos_ffensive quality from every pore, had walked before him like three sheep t_he quiet corner in Soho, and had offered as pupils to Lucie’s husband: delicately saying “Halloa! here are three lumps of bread-and- cheese toward_our matrimonial picnic, Darnay!” The polite rejection of the three lumps o_read-and-cheese had quite bloated Mr. Stryver with indignation, which h_fterwards turned to account in the training of the young gentlemen, b_irecting them to beware of the pride of Beggars, like that tutor-fellow. H_as also in the habit of declaiming to Mrs. Stryver, over his full-bodie_ine, on the arts Mrs. Darnay had once put in practice to “catch” him, and o_he diamond-cut-diamond arts in himself, madam, which had rendered him “not t_e caught.” Some of his King’s Bench familiars, who were occasionally partie_o the full-bodied wine and the lie, excused him for the latter by saying tha_e had told it so often, that he believed it himself—which is surely such a_ncorrigible aggravation of an originally bad offence, as to justify any suc_ffender’s being carried off to some suitably retired spot, and there hange_ut of the way.
These were among the echoes to which Lucie, sometimes pensive, sometime_mused and laughing, listened in the echoing corner, until her little daughte_as six years old. How near to her heart the echoes of her child’s tread came, and those of her own dear father’s, always active and self-possessed, an_hose of her dear husband’s, need not be told. Nor, how the lightest echo o_heir united home, directed by herself with such a wise and elegant thrif_hat it was more abundant than any waste, was music to her. Nor, how ther_ere echoes all about her, sweet in her ears, of the many times her father ha_old her that he found her more devoted to him married (if that could be) tha_ingle, and of the many times her husband had said to her that no cares an_uties seemed to divide her love for him or her help to him, and asked her “What is the magic secret, my darling, of your being everything to all of us, as if there were only one of us, yet never seeming to be hurried, or to hav_oo much to do?”
But, there were other echoes, from a distance, that rumbled menacingly in th_orner all through this space of time. And it was now, about little Lucie’_ixth birthday, that they began to have an awful sound, as of a great storm i_rance with a dreadful sea rising.
On a night in mid-July, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine, Mr. Lorr_ame in late, from Tellson’s, and sat himself down by Lucie and her husband i_he dark window. It was a hot, wild night, and they were all three reminded o_he old Sunday night when they had looked at the lightning from the sam_lace.
“I began to think,” said Mr. Lorry, pushing his brown wig back, “that I shoul_ave to pass the night at Tellson’s. We have been so full of business all day, that we have not known what to do first, or which way to turn. There is suc_n uneasiness in Paris, that we have actually a run of confidence upon us! Ou_ustomers over there, seem not to be able to confide their property to us fas_nough. There is positively a mania among some of them for sending it t_ngland.”
“That has a bad look,” said Darnay—
“A bad look, you say, my dear Darnay? Yes, but we don’t know what reason ther_s in it. People are so unreasonable! Some of us at Tellson’s are getting old, and we really can’t be troubled out of the ordinary course without du_ccasion.”
“Still,” said Darnay, “you know how gloomy and threatening the sky is.”
“I know that, to be sure,” assented Mr. Lorry, trying to persuade himself tha_is sweet temper was soured, and that he grumbled, “but I am determined to b_eevish after my long day’s botheration. Where is Manette?”
“Here he is,” said the Doctor, entering the dark room at the moment.
“I am quite glad you are at home; for these hurries and forebodings by which _ave been surrounded all day long, have made me nervous without reason. Yo_re not going out, I hope?”
“No; I am going to play backgammon with you, if you like,” said the Doctor.
“I don’t think I do like, if I may speak my mind. I am not fit to be pitte_gainst you to-night. Is the teaboard still there, Lucie? I can’t see.”
“Of course, it has been kept for you.”
“Thank ye, my dear. The precious child is safe in bed?”
“And sleeping soundly.”
“That’s right; all safe and well! I don’t know why anything should b_therwise than safe and well here, thank God; but I have been so put out al_ay, and I am not as young as I was! My tea, my dear! Thank ye. Now, come an_ake your place in the circle, and let us sit quiet, and hear the echoes abou_hich you have your theory.”
“Not a theory; it was a fancy.”
“A fancy, then, my wise pet,” said Mr. Lorry, patting her hand. “They are ver_umerous and very loud, though, are they not? Only hear them!”
Headlong, mad, and dangerous footsteps to force their way into anybody’s life, footsteps not easily made clean again if once stained red, the footstep_aging in Saint Antoine afar off, as the little circle sat in the dark Londo_indow.
Saint Antoine had been, that morning, a vast dusky mass of scarecrows heavin_o and fro, with frequent gleams of light above the billowy heads, where stee_lades and bayonets shone in the sun. A tremendous roar arose from the throa_f Saint Antoine, and a forest of naked arms struggled in the air lik_hrivelled branches of trees in a winter wind: all the fingers convulsivel_lutching at every weapon or semblance of a weapon that was thrown up from th_epths below, no matter how far off.
Who gave them out, whence they last came, where they began, through wha_gency they crookedly quivered and jerked, scores at a time, over the heads o_he crowd, like a kind of lightning, no eye in the throng could have told; but, muskets were being distributed—so were cartridges, powder, and ball, bar_f iron and wood, knives, axes, pikes, every weapon that distracted ingenuit_ould discover or devise. People who could lay hold of nothing else, se_hemselves with bleeding hands to force stones and bricks out of their place_n walls. Every pulse and heart in Saint Antoine was on high-fever strain an_t high-fever heat. Every living creature there held life as of no account, and was demented with a passionate readiness to sacrifice it.
As a whirlpool of boiling waters has a centre point, so, all this ragin_ircled round Defarge’s wine-shop, and every human drop in the caldron had _endency to be sucked towards the vortex where Defarge himself, alread_egrimed with gunpowder and sweat, issued orders, issued arms, thrust this ma_ack, dragged this man forward, disarmed one to arm another, laboured an_trove in the thickest of the uproar.
“Keep near to me, Jacques Three,” cried Defarge; “and do you, Jacques One an_wo, separate and put yourselves at the head of as many of these patriots a_ou can. Where is my wife?”
“Eh, well! Here you see me!” said madame, composed as ever, but not knittin_o-day. Madame’s resolute right hand was occupied with an axe, in place of th_sual softer implements, and in her girdle were a pistol and a cruel knife.
“Where do you go, my wife?”
“I go,” said madame, “with you at present. You shall see me at the head o_omen, by-and-bye.”
“Come, then!” cried Defarge, in a resounding voice. “Patriots and friends, w_re ready! The Bastille!”
With a roar that sounded as if all the breath in France had been shaped int_he detested word, the living sea rose, wave on wave, depth on depth, an_verflowed the city to that point. Alarm-bells ringing, drums beating, the se_aging and thundering on its new beach, the attack began.
Deep ditches, double drawbridge, massive stone walls, eight great towers, cannon, muskets, fire and smoke. Through the fire and through the smoke—in th_ire and in the smoke, for the sea cast him up against a cannon, and on th_nstant he became a cannonier—Defarge of the wine-shop worked like a manfu_oldier, Two fierce hours.
Deep ditch, single drawbridge, massive stone walls, eight great towers, cannon, muskets, fire and smoke. One drawbridge down! “Work, comrades all, work! Work, Jacques One, Jacques Two, Jacques One Thousand, Jacques Tw_housand, Jacques Five-and-Twenty Thousand; in the name of all the Angels o_he Devils—which you prefer—work!” Thus Defarge of the wine-shop, still at hi_un, which had long grown hot.
“To me, women!” cried madame his wife. “What! We can kill as well as the me_hen the place is taken!” And to her, with a shrill thirsty cry, troopin_omen variously armed, but all armed alike in hunger and revenge.
Cannon, muskets, fire and smoke; but, still the deep ditch, the singl_rawbridge, the massive stone walls, and the eight great towers. Sligh_isplacements of the raging sea, made by the falling wounded. Flashin_eapons, blazing torches, smoking waggonloads of wet straw, hard work a_eighbouring barricades in all directions, shrieks, volleys, execrations, bravery without stint, boom smash and rattle, and the furious sounding of th_iving sea; but, still the deep ditch, and the single drawbridge, and th_assive stone walls, and the eight great towers, and still Defarge of th_ine-shop at his gun, grown doubly hot by the service of Four fierce hours.
A white flag from within the fortress, and a parley—this dimly perceptibl_hrough the raging storm, nothing audible in it—suddenly the sea ros_mmeasurably wider and higher, and swept Defarge of the wine-shop over th_owered drawbridge, past the massive stone outer walls, in among the eigh_reat towers surrendered!
So resistless was the force of the ocean bearing him on, that even to draw hi_reath or turn his head was as impracticable as if he had been struggling i_he surf at the South Sea, until he was landed in the outer courtyard of th_astille. There, against an angle of a wall, he made a struggle to look abou_im. Jacques Three was nearly at his side; Madame Defarge, still heading som_f her women, was visible in the inner distance, and her knife was in he_and. Everywhere was tumult, exultation, deafening and maniacal bewilderment, astounding noise, yet furious dumb-show.
“The secret cells!”
“The instruments of torture!”
Of all these cries, and ten thousand incoherences, “The Prisoners!” was th_ry most taken up by the sea that rushed in, as if there were an eternity o_eople, as well as of time and space. When the foremost billows rolled past, bearing the prison officers with them, and threatening them all with instan_eath if any secret nook remained undisclosed, Defarge laid his strong hand o_he breast of one of these men—a man with a grey head, who had a lighted torc_n his hand— separated him from the rest, and got him between himself and th_all.
“Show me the North Tower!” said Defarge. “Quick!”
“I will faithfully,” replied the man, “if you will come with me. But there i_o one there.”
“What is the meaning of One Hundred and Five, North Tower?” asked Defarge.
“The meaning, monsieur?”
“Does it mean a captive, or a place of captivity? Or do you mean that I shal_trike you dead?”
“Kill him!” croaked Jacques Three, who had come close up.
“Monsieur, it is a cell.”
“Show it me!”
“Pass this way, then.”
Jacques Three, with his usual craving on him, and evidently disappointed b_he dialogue taking a turn that did not seem to promise bloodshed, held b_efarge’s arm as he held by the turnkey’s. Their three heads had been clos_ogether during this brief discourse, and it had been as much as they could d_o hear one another, even then: so tremendous was the noise of the livin_cean, in its irruption into the Fortress, and its inundation of the court_nd passages and staircases. All around outside, too, it beat the walls with _eep, hoarse roar, from which, occasionally, some partial shouts of tumul_roke and leaped into the air like spray.
Through gloomy vaults where the light of day had never shone, past hideou_oors of dark dens and cages, down cavernous flights of steps, and again u_teep rugged ascents of stone and brick, more like dry waterfalls tha_taircases, Defarge, the turnkey, and Jacques Three, linked hand and arm, wen_ith all the speed they could make. Here and there, especially at first, th_nundation started on them and swept by; but when they had done descending, and were winding and climbing up a tower, they were alone. Hemmed in here b_he massive thickness of walls and arches, the storm within the fortress an_ithout was only audible to them in a dull, subdued way, as if the noise ou_f which they had come had almost destroyed their sense of hearing.
The turnkey stopped at a low door, put a key in a clashing lock, swung th_oor slowly open, and said, as they all bent their heads and passed in:
“One hundred and five, North Tower!”
There was a small, heavily-grated, unglazed window high in the wall, with _tone screen before it, so that the sky could be only seen by stooping low an_ooking up. There was a small chimney, heavily barred across, a few fee_ithin. There was a heap of old feathery wood-ashes on the hearth. There was _tool, and table, and a straw bed. There were the four blackened walls, and _usted iron ring in one of them.
“Pass that torch slowly along these walls, that I may see them,” said Defarg_o the turnkey.
The man obeyed, and Defarge followed the light closely with his eyes.
“Stop!—Look here, Jacques!”
“A. M.!” croaked Jacques Three, as he read greedily.
“Alexandre Manette,” said Defarge in his ear, following the letters with hi_wart forefinger, deeply engrained with gunpowder. “And here he wrote ‘a poo_hysician.’ And it was he, without doubt, who scratched a calendar on thi_tone. What is that in your hand? A crowbar? Give it me!”
He had still the linstock of his gun in his own hand. He made a sudde_xchange of the two instruments, and turning on the worm-eaten stool an_able, beat them to pieces in a few blows.
“Hold the light higher!” he said, wrathfully, to the turnkey. “Look amon_hose fragments with care, Jacques. And see! Here is my knife,” throwing it t_im; “rip open that bed, and search the straw. Hold the light higher, you!”
With a menacing look at the turnkey he crawled upon the hearth, and, peerin_p the chimney, struck and prised at its sides with the crowbar, and worked a_he iron grating across it. In a few minutes, some mortar and dust cam_ropping down, which he averted his face to avoid; and in it, and in the ol_ood-ashes, and in a crevice in the chimney into which his weapon had slippe_r wrought itself, he groped with a cautious touch.
“Nothing in the wood, and nothing in the straw, Jacques?”
“Let us collect them together, in the middle of the cell. So! Light them, you!”
The turnkey fired the little pile, which blazed high and hot. Stooping agai_o come out at the low-arched door, they left it burning, and retraced thei_ay to the courtyard; seeming to recover their sense of hearing as they cam_own, until they were in the raging flood once more.
They found it surging and tossing, in quest of Defarge himself. Saint Antoin_as clamorous to have its wine-shop keeper foremost in the guard upon th_overnor who had defended the Bastille and shot the people. Otherwise, th_overnor would not be marched to the Hotel de Ville for judgment. Otherwise, the governor would escape, and the people’s blood (suddenly of some value, after many years of worthlessness) be unavenged.
In the howling universe of passion and contention that seemed to encompas_his grim old officer conspicuous in his grey coat and red decoration, ther_as but one quite steady figure, and that was a woman’s. “See, there is m_usband!” she cried, pointing him out. “See Defarge!” She stood immovabl_lose to the grim old officer, and remained immovable close to him; remaine_mmovable close to him through the streets, as Defarge and the rest bore hi_long; remained immovable close to him when he was got near his destination, and began to be struck at from behind; remained immovable close to him whe_he long-gathering rain of stabs and blows fell heavy; was so close to hi_hen he dropped dead under it, that, suddenly animated, she put her foot upo_is neck, and with her cruel knife—long ready—hewed off his head.
The hour was come, when Saint Antoine was to execute his horrible idea o_oisting up men for lamps to show what he could be and do. Saint Antoine’_lood was up, and the blood of tyranny and domination by the iron hand wa_own—down on the steps of the Hotel de Ville where the governor’s bod_ay—down on the sole of the shoe of Madame Defarge where she had trodden o_he body to steady it for mutilation. “Lower the lamp yonder!” cried Sain_ntoine, after glaring round for a new means of death; “here is one of hi_oldiers to be left on guard!” The swinging sentinel was posted, and the se_ushed on.
The sea of black and threatening waters, and of destructive upheaving of wav_gainst wave, whose depths were yet unfathomed and whose forces were ye_nknown. The remorseless sea of turbulently swaying shapes, voices o_engeance, and faces hardened in the furnaces of suffering until the touch o_ity could make no mark on them.
But, in the ocean of faces where every fierce and furious expression was i_ivid life, there were two groups of faces—each seven in number —so fixedl_ontrasting with the rest, that never did sea roll which bore more memorabl_recks with it. Seven faces of prisoners, suddenly released by the storm tha_ad burst their tomb, were carried high overhead: all scared, all lost, al_ondering and amazed, as if the Last Day were come, and those who rejoice_round them were lost spirits. Other seven faces there were, carried higher, seven dead faces, whose drooping eyelids and half-seen eyes awaited the Las_ay. Impassive faces, yet with a suspended—not an abolished—expression o_hem; faces, rather, in a fearful pause, as having yet to raise the droppe_ids of the eyes, and bear witness with the bloodless lips, “Thou didst it!”
Seven prisoners released, seven gory heads on pikes, the keys of the accurse_ortress of the eight strong towers, some discovered letters and othe_emorials of prisoners of old time, long dead of broken hearts,—such, an_uch—like, the loudly echoing footsteps of Saint Antoine escort through th_aris streets in mid-July, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine. Now, Heaven defeat the fancy of Lucie Darnay, and keep these feet far out of he_ife! For, they are headlong, mad, and dangerous; and in the years so lon_fter the breaking of the cask at Defarge’s wine-shop door, they are no_asily purified when once stained red.