Haggard Saint Antoine had had only one exultant week, in which to soften hi_odicum of hard and bitter bread to such extent as he could, with the relis_f fraternal embraces and congratulations, when Madame Defarge sat at he_ounter, as usual, presiding over the customers. Madame Defarge wore no ros_n her head, for the great brotherhood of Spies had become, even in one shor_eek, extremely chary of trusting themselves to the saint’s mercies. The lamp_cross his streets had a portentously elastic swing with them.
Madame Defarge, with her arms folded, sat in the morning light and heat,
contemplating the wine-shop and the street. In both, there were several knot_f loungers, squalid and miserable, but now with a manifest sense of powe_nthroned on their distress. The raggedest nightcap, awry on the wretchedes_ead, had this crooked significance in it: “I know how hard it has grown fo_e, the wearer of this, to support life in myself; but do you know how easy i_as grown for me, the wearer of this, to destroy life in you?” Every lean bar_rm, that had been without work before, had this work always ready for it now,
that it could strike. The fingers of the knitting women were vicious, with th_xperience that they could tear. There was a change in the appearance of Sain_ntoine; the image had been hammering into this for hundreds of years, and th_ast finishing blows had told mightily on the expression.
Madame Defarge sat observing it, with such suppressed approval as was to b_esired in the leader of the Saint Antoine women. One of her sisterhoo_nitted beside her. The short, rather plump wife of a starved grocer, and th_other of two children withal, this lieutenant had already earned th_omplimentary name of The Vengeance.
“Hark!” said The Vengeance. “Listen, then! Who comes?”
As if a train of powder laid from the outermost bound of Saint Antoine Quarte_o the wine-shop door, had been suddenly fired, a fast-spreading murmur cam_ushing along.
“It is Defarge,” said madame. “Silence, patriots!”
Defarge came in breathless, pulled off a red cap he wore, and looked aroun_im! “Listen, everywhere!” said madame again. “Listen to him!” Defarge stood,
panting, against a background of eager eyes and open mouths, formed outsid_he door; all those within the wine-shop had sprung to their feet.
“Say then, my husband. What is it?”
“News from the other world!”
“How, then?” cried madame, contemptuously. “The other world?”
“Does everybody here recall old Foulon, who told the famished people that the_ight eat grass, and who died, and went to Hell?”
“Everybody!” from all throats.
“The news is of him. He is among us!”
“Among us!” from the universal throat again. “And dead?”
“Not dead! He feared us so much—and with reason—that he caused himself to b_epresented as dead, and had a grand mock-funeral. But they have found hi_live, hiding in the country, and have brought him in. I have seen him bu_ow, on his way to the Hotel de Ville, a prisoner. I have said that he ha_eason to fear us. Say all! Had he reason?”
Wretched old sinner of more than threescore years and ten, if he had neve_nown it yet, he would have known it in his heart of hearts if he could hav_eard the answering cry.
A moment of profound silence followed. Defarge and his wife looked steadfastl_t one another. The Vengeance stooped, and the jar of a drum was heard as sh_oved it at her feet behind the counter.
“Patriots!” said Defarge, in a determined voice, “are we ready?”
Instantly Madame Defarge’s knife was in her girdle; the drum was beating i_he streets, as if it and a drummer had flown together by magic; and Th_engeance, uttering terrific shrieks, and flinging her arms about her hea_ike all the forty Furies at once, was tearing from house to house, rousin_he women.
The men were terrible, in the bloody-minded anger with which they looked fro_indows, caught up what arms they had, and came pouring down into the streets;
but, the women were a sight to chill the boldest. From such househol_ccupations as their bare poverty yielded, from their children, from thei_ged and their sick crouching on the bare ground famished and naked, they ra_ut with streaming hair, urging one another, and themselves, to madness wit_he wildest cries and actions. Villain Foulon taken, my sister! Old Foulo_aken, my mother! Miscreant Foulon taken, my daughter! Then, a score of other_an into the midst of these, beating their breasts, tearing their hair, an_creaming, Foulon alive! Foulon who told the starving people they might ea_rass! Foulon who told my old father that he might eat grass, when I had n_read to give him! Foulon who told my baby it might suck grass, when thes_reasts where dry with want! O mother of God, this Foulon! O Heaven ou_uffering! Hear me, my dead baby and my withered father: I swear on my knees,
on these stones, to avenge you on Foulon! Husbands, and brothers, and youn_en, Give us the blood of Foulon, Give us the head of Foulon, Give us th_eart of Foulon, Give us the body and soul of Foulon, Rend Foulon to pieces,
and dig him into the ground, that grass may grow from him! With these cries,
numbers of the women, lashed into blind frenzy, whirled about, striking an_earing at their own friends until they dropped into a passionate swoon, an_ere only saved by the men belonging to them from being trampled under foot.
Nevertheless, not a moment was lost; not a moment! This Foulon was at th_otel de Ville, and might be loosed. Never, if Saint Antoine knew his ow_ufferings, insults, and wrongs! Armed men and women flocked out of th_uarter so fast, and drew even these last dregs after them with such a forc_f suction, that within a quarter of an hour there was not a human creature i_aint Antoine’s bosom but a few old crones and the wailing children.
No. They were all by that time choking the Hall of Examination where this ol_an, ugly and wicked, was, and overflowing into the adjacent open space an_treets. The Defarges, husband and wife, The Vengeance, and Jacques Three,
were in the first press, and at no great distance from him in the Hall.
“See!” cried madame, pointing with her knife. “See the old villain bound wit_opes. That was well done to tie a bunch of grass upon his back. Ha, ha! Tha_as well done. Let him eat it now!” Madame put her knife under her arm, an_lapped her hands as at a play.
The people immediately behind Madame Defarge, explaining the cause of he_atisfaction to those behind them, and those again explaining to others, an_hose to others, the neighbouring streets resounded with the clapping o_ands. Similarly, during two or three hours of drawl, and the winnowing o_any bushels of words, Madame Defarge’s frequent expressions of impatienc_ere taken up, with marvellous quickness, at a distance: the more readily,
because certain men who had by some wonderful exercise of agility climbed u_he external architecture to look in from the windows, knew Madame Defarg_ell, and acted as a telegraph between her and the crowd outside the building.
At length the sun rose so high that it struck a kindly ray as of hope o_rotection, directly down upon the old prisoner’s head. The favour was to_uch to bear; in an instant the barrier of dust and chaff that had stoo_urprisingly long, went to the winds, and Saint Antoine had got him!
It was known directly, to the furthest confines of the crowd. Defarge had bu_prung over a railing and a table, and folded the miserable wretch in a deadl_mbrace—Madame Defarge had but followed and turned her hand in one of th_opes with which he was tied—The Vengeance and Jacques Three were not yet u_ith them, and the men at the windows had not yet swooped into the Hall, lik_irds of prey from their high perches—when the cry seemed to go up, all ove_he city, “Bring him out! Bring him to the lamp!”
Down, and up, and head foremost on the steps of the building; now, on hi_nees; now, on his feet; now, on his back; dragged, and struck at, and stifle_y the bunches of grass and straw that were thrust into his face by hundred_f hands; torn, bruised, panting, bleeding, yet always entreating an_eseeching for mercy; now full of vehement agony of action, with a small clea_pace about him as the people drew one another back that they might see; now,
a log of dead wood drawn through a forest of legs; he was hauled to th_earest street corner where one of the fatal lamps swung, and there Madam_efarge let him go—as a cat might have done to a mouse—and silently an_omposedly looked at him while they made ready, and while he besought her: th_omen passionately screeching at him all the time, and the men sternly callin_ut to have him killed with grass in his mouth. Once, he went aloft, and th_ope broke, and they caught him shrieking; twice, he went aloft, and the rop_roke, and they caught him shrieking; then, the rope was merciful, and hel_im, and his head was soon upon a pike, with grass enough in the mouth for al_aint Antoine to dance at the sight of.
Nor was this the end of the day’s bad work, for Saint Antoine so shouted an_anced his angry blood up, that it boiled again, on hearing when the da_losed in that the son-in-law of the despatched, another of the people’_nemies and insulters, was coming into Paris under a guard five hundre_trong, in cavalry alone. Saint Antoine wrote his crimes on flaring sheets o_aper, seized him—would have torn him out of the breast of an army to bea_oulon company—set his head and heart on pikes, and carried the three spoil_f the day, in Wolf-procession through the streets.
Not before dark night did the men and women come back to the children, wailin_nd breadless. Then, the miserable bakers’ shops were beset by long files o_hem, patiently waiting to buy bad bread; and while they waited with stomach_aint and empty, they beguiled the time by embracing one another on th_riumphs of the day, and achieving them again in gossip. Gradually, thes_trings of ragged people shortened and frayed away; and then poor lights bega_o shine in high windows, and slender fires were made in the streets, at whic_eighbours cooked in common, afterwards supping at their doors.
Scanty and insufficient suppers those, and innocent of meat, as of most othe_auce to wretched bread. Yet, human fellowship infused some nourishment int_he flinty viands, and struck some sparks of cheerfulness out of them. Father_nd mothers who had had their full share in the worst of the day, playe_ently with their meagre children; and lovers, with such a world around the_nd before them, loved and hoped.
It was almost morning, when Defarge’s wine-shop parted with its last knot o_ustomers, and Monsieur Defarge said to madame his wife, in husky tones, whil_astening the door:
“At last it is come, my dear!”
“Eh well!” returned madame. “Almost.”
Saint Antoine slept, the Defarges slept: even The Vengeance slept with he_tarved grocer, and the drum was at rest. The drum’s was the only voice i_aint Antoine that blood and hurry had not changed. The Vengeance, a_ustodian of the drum, could have wakened him up and had the same speech ou_f him as before the Bastille fell, or old Foulon was seized; not so with th_oarse tones of the men and women in Saint Antoine’s bosom.