A large cask of wine had been dropped and broken, in the street. The acciden_ad happened in getting it out of a cart; the cask had tumbled out with a run, the hoops had burst, and it lay on the stones just outside the door of th_ine-shop, shattered like a walnut-shell.
All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular stones of th_treet, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly t_ame all living creatures that approached them, had dammed it into littl_ools; these were surrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hand_oined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, t_ip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men an_omen, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, o_ven with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry int_nfants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stem the wine as i_an; others, directed by lookers-on up at high windows, darted here and there, to cut off little streams of wine that started away in new directions; other_evoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, an_ven champing the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish. There wa_o drainage to carry off the wine, and not only did it all get taken up, bu_o much mud got taken up along with it, that there might have been a scavenge_n the street, if anybody acquainted with it could have believed in such _iraculous presence.
A shrill sound of laughter and of amused voices—voices of men, women, an_hildren—resounded in the street while this wine game lasted. There was littl_oughness in the sport, and much playfulness. There was a specia_ompanionship in it, an observable inclination on the part of every one t_oin some other one, which led, especially among the luckier or lighter- hearted, to frolicsome embraces, drinking of healths, shaking of hands, an_ven joining of hands and dancing, a dozen together. When the wine was gone, and the places where it had been most abundant were raked into a gridiron- pattern by fingers, these demonstrations ceased, as suddenly as they ha_roken out. The man who had left his saw sticking in the firewood he wa_utting, set it in motion again; the women who had left on a door-step th_ittle pot of hot ashes, at which she had been trying to soften the pain i_er own starved fingers and toes, or in those of her child, returned to it; men with bare arms, matted locks, and cadaverous faces, who had emerged int_he winter light from cellars, moved away, to descend again; and a gloo_athered on the scene that appeared more natural to it than sunshine.
The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street in th_uburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled. It had stained man_ands, too, and many faces, and many naked feet, and many wooden shoes. Th_ands of the man who sawed the wood, left red marks on the billets; and th_orehead of the woman who nursed her baby, was stained with the stain of th_ld rag she wound about her head again. Those who had been greedy with th_taves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and on_all joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of _ightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in mudd_ine-lees—BLOOD.
The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street- stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.
And now that the cloud settled on Saint Antoine, which a momentary gleam ha_riven from his sacred countenance, the darkness of it was heavy-cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and want, were the lords in waiting on the saintl_resence-nobles of great power all of them; but, most especially the last.
Samples of a people that had undergone a terrible grinding and regrinding i_he mill, and certainly not in the fabulous mill which ground old peopl_oung, shivered at every corner, passed in and out at every doorway, looke_rom every window, fluttered in every vestige of a garment that the win_hook. The mill which had worked them down, was the mill that grinds youn_eople old; the children had ancient faces and grave voices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into every furrow of age and coming u_fresh, was the sigh, Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushe_ut of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles an_ines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood tha_he man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and starte_p from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, of anything t_at. Hunger was the inscription on the baker’s shelves, written in every smal_oaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-do_reparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among th_oasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics i_very farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctan_rops of oil.
Its abiding place was in all things fitted to it. A narrow winding street, full of offence and stench, with other narrow winding streets diverging, al_eopled by rags and nightcaps, and all smelling of rags and nightcaps, and al_isible things with a brooding look upon them that looked ill. In the hunte_ir of the people there was yet some wild-beast thought of the possibility o_urning at bay. Depressed and slinking though they were, eyes of fire were no_anting among them; nor compressed lips, white with what they suppressed; no_oreheads knitted into the likeness of the gallows-rope they mused abou_nduring, or inflicting. The trade signs (and they were almost as many as th_hops) were, all, grim illustrations of Want. The butcher and the porkma_ainted up, only the leanest scrags of meat; the baker, the coarsest of meagr_oaves. The people rudely pictured as drinking in the wine-shops, croaked ove_heir scanty measures of thin wine and beer, and were gloweringly confidentia_ogether. Nothing was represented in a flourishing condition, save tools an_eapons; but, the cutler’s knives and axes were sharp and bright, the smith’_ammers were heavy, and the gunmaker’s stock was murderous. The cripplin_tones of the pavement, with their many little reservoirs of mud and water, had no footways, but broke off abruptly at the doors. The kennel, to mak_mends, ran down the middle of the street—when it ran at all: which was onl_fter heavy rains, and then it ran, by many eccentric fits, into the houses.
Across the streets, at wide intervals, one clumsy lamp was slung by a rope an_ulley; at night, when the lamplighter had let these down, and lighted, an_oisted them again, a feeble grove of dim wicks swung in a sickly manne_verhead, as if they were at sea. Indeed they were at sea, and the ship an_rew were in peril of tempest.
For, the time was to come, when the gaunt scarecrows of that region shoul_ave watched the lamplighter, in their idleness and hunger, so long, as t_onceive the idea of improving on his method, and hauling up men by thos_opes and pulleys, to flare upon the darkness of their condition. But, th_ime was not come yet; and every wind that blew over France shook the rags o_he scarecrows in vain, for the birds, fine of song and feather, took n_arning.
The wine-shop was a corner shop, better than most others in its appearance an_egree, and the master of the wine-shop had stood outside it, in a yello_aistcoat and green breeches, looking on at the struggle for the lost wine.
“It’s not my affair,” said he, with a final shrug of the shoulders. “Th_eople from the market did it. Let them bring another.”
There, his eyes happening to catch the tall joker writing up his joke, h_alled to him across the way:
“Say, then, my Gaspard, what do you do there?”
The fellow pointed to his joke with immense significance, as is often the wa_ith his tribe. It missed its mark, and completely failed, as is often the wa_ith his tribe too.
“What now? Are you a subject for the mad hospital?” said the wine-shop keeper, crossing the road, and obliterating the jest with a handful of mud, picked u_or the purpose, and smeared over it. “Why do you write in the public streets?
Is there—tell me thou—is there no other place to write such words in?”
In his expostulation he dropped his cleaner hand (perhaps accidentally, perhaps not) upon the joker’s heart. The joker rapped it with his own, took _imble spring upward, and came down in a fantastic dancing attitude, with on_f his stained shoes jerked off his foot into his hand, and held out. A joke_f an extremely, not to say wolfishly practical character, he looked, unde_hose circumstances.
“Put it on, put it on,” said the other. “Call wine, wine; and finish there.” With that advice, he wiped his soiled hand upon the joker’s dress, such as i_as—quite deliberately, as having dirtied the hand on his account; and the_ecrossed the road and entered the wine-shop.
This wine-shop keeper was a bull-necked, martial-looking man of thirty, and h_hould have been of a hot temperament, for, although it was a bitter day, h_ore no coat, but carried one slung over his shoulder. His shirt-sleeves wer_olled up, too, and his brown arms were bare to the elbows. Neither did h_ear anything more on his head than his own crisply-curling short dark hair.
He was a dark man altogether, with good eyes and a good bold breadth betwee_hem. Good-humoured looking on the whole, but implacable-looking, too; evidently a man of a strong resolution and a set purpose; a man not desirabl_o be met, rushing down a narrow pass with a gulf on either side, for nothin_ould turn the man.
Madame Defarge, his wife, sat in the shop behind the counter as he came in.
Madame Defarge was a stout woman of about his own age, with a watchful ey_hat seldom seemed to look at anything, a large hand heavily ringed, a stead_ace, strong features, and great composure of manner. There was a characte_bout Madame Defarge, from which one might have predicated that she did no_ften make mistakes against herself in any of the reckonings over which sh_resided. Madame Defarge being sensitive to cold, was wrapped in fur, and ha_ quantity of bright shawl twined about her head, though not to th_oncealment of her large earrings. Her knitting was before her, but she ha_aid it down to pick her teeth with a toothpick. Thus engaged, with her righ_lbow supported by her left hand, Madame Defarge said nothing when her lor_ame in, but coughed just one grain of cough. This, in combination with th_ifting of her darkly defined eyebrows over her toothpick by the breadth of _ine, suggested to her husband that he would do well to look round the sho_mong the customers, for any new customer who had dropped in while he steppe_ver the way.
The wine-shop keeper accordingly rolled his eyes about, until they rested upo_n elderly gentleman and a young lady, who were seated in a corner. Othe_ompany were there: two playing cards, two playing dominoes, three standing b_he counter lengthening out a short supply of wine. As he passed behind th_ounter, he took notice that the elderly gentleman said in a look to the youn_ady, “This is our man.”
“What the devil do YOU do in that galley there?” said Monsieur Defarge t_imself; “I don’t know you.”
But, he feigned not to notice the two strangers, and fell into discourse wit_he triumvirate of customers who were drinking at the counter.
“How goes it, Jacques?” said one of these three to Monsieur Defarge. “Is al_he spilt wine swallowed?”
“Every drop, Jacques,” answered Monsieur Defarge.
When this interchange of Christian name was effected, Madame Defarge, pickin_er teeth with her toothpick, coughed another grain of cough, and raised he_yebrows by the breadth of another line.
“It is not often,” said the second of the three, addressing Monsieur Defarge, “that many of these miserable beasts know the taste of wine, or of anythin_ut black bread and death. Is it not so, Jacques?”
“It is so, Jacques,” Monsieur Defarge returned.
At this second interchange of the Christian name, Madame Defarge, still usin_er toothpick with profound composure, coughed another grain of cough, an_aised her eyebrows by the breadth of another line.
The last of the three now said his say, as he put down his empty drinkin_essel and smacked his lips.
“Ah! So much the worse! A bitter taste it is that such poor cattle always hav_n their mouths, and hard lives they live, Jacques. Am I right, Jacques?”
“You are right, Jacques,” was the response of Monsieur Defarge.
This third interchange of the Christian name was completed at the moment whe_adame Defarge put her toothpick by, kept her eyebrows up, and slightl_ustled in her seat.
“Hold then! True!” muttered her husband. “Gentlemen—my wife!”
The three customers pulled off their hats to Madame Defarge, with thre_lourishes. She acknowledged their homage by bending her head, and giving the_ quick look. Then she glanced in a casual manner round the wine-shop, took u_er knitting with great apparent calmness and repose of spirit, and becam_bsorbed in it.
“Gentlemen,” said her husband, who had kept his bright eye observantly upo_er, “good day. The chamber, furnished bachelor-fashion, that you wished t_ee, and were inquiring for when I stepped out, is on the fifth floor. Th_oorway of the staircase gives on the little courtyard close to the lef_ere,” pointing with his hand, “near to the window of my establishment. But, now that I remember, one of you has already been there, and can show the way.
They paid for their wine, and left the place. The eyes of Monsieur Defarg_ere studying his wife at her knitting when the elderly gentleman advance_rom his corner, and begged the favour of a word.
“Willingly, sir,” said Monsieur Defarge, and quietly stepped with him to th_oor.
Their conference was very short, but very decided. Almost at the first word, Monsieur Defarge started and became deeply attentive. It had not lasted _inute, when he nodded and went out. The gentleman then beckoned to the youn_ady, and they, too, went out. Madame Defarge knitted with nimble fingers an_teady eyebrows, and saw nothing.
Mr. Jarvis Lorry and Miss Manette, emerging from the wine-shop thus, joine_onsieur Defarge in the doorway to which he had directed his own company jus_efore. It opened from a stinking little black courtyard, and was the genera_ublic entrance to a great pile of houses, inhabited by a great number o_eople. In the gloomy tile-paved entry to the gloomy tile-paved staircase, Monsieur Defarge bent down on one knee to the child of his old master, and pu_er hand to his lips. It was a gentle action, but not at all gently done; _ery remarkable transformation had come over him in a few seconds. He had n_ood-humour in his face, nor any openness of aspect left, but had become _ecret, angry, dangerous man.
“It is very high; it is a little difficult. Better to begin slowly.” Thus, Monsieur Defarge, in a stern voice, to Mr. Lorry, as they began ascending th_tairs.
“Is he alone?” the latter whispered.
“Alone! God help him, who should be with him!” said the other, in the same lo_oice.
“Is he always alone, then?”
“Of his own desire?”
“Of his own necessity. As he was, when I first saw him after they found me an_emanded to know if I would take him, and, at my peril be discreet—as he wa_hen, so he is now.”
“He is greatly changed?”
The keeper of the wine-shop stopped to strike the wall with his hand, an_utter a tremendous curse. No direct answer could have been half so forcible.
Mr. Lorry’s spirits grew heavier and heavier, as he and his two companion_scended higher and higher.
Such a staircase, with its accessories, in the older and more crowded parts o_aris, would be bad enough now; but, at that time, it was vile indeed t_naccustomed and unhardened senses. Every little habitation within the grea_oul nest of one high building—that is to say, the room or rooms within ever_oor that opened on the general staircase—left its own heap of refuse on it_wn landing, besides flinging other refuse from its own windows. Th_ncontrollable and hopeless mass of decomposition so engendered, would hav_olluted the air, even if poverty and deprivation had not loaded it with thei_ntangible impurities; the two bad sources combined made it almos_nsupportable. Through such an atmosphere, by a steep dark shaft of dirt an_oison, the way lay. Yielding to his own disturbance of mind, and to his youn_ompanion’s agitation, which became greater every instant, Mr. Jarvis Lorr_wice stopped to rest. Each of these stoppages was made at a doleful grating, by which any languishing good airs that were left uncorrupted, seemed t_scape, and all spoilt and sickly vapours seemed to crawl in. Through th_usted bars, tastes, rather than glimpses, were caught of the jumble_eighbourhood; and nothing within range, nearer or lower than the summits o_he two great towers of Notre-Dame, had any promise on it of healthy life o_holesome aspirations.
At last, the top of the staircase was gained, and they stopped for the thir_ime. There was yet an upper staircase, of a steeper inclination and o_ontracted dimensions, to be ascended, before the garret story was reached.
The keeper of the wine-shop, always going a little in advance, and alway_oing on the side which Mr. Lorry took, as though he dreaded to be asked an_uestion by the young lady, turned himself about here, and, carefully feelin_n the pockets of the coat he carried over his shoulder, took out a key.
“The door is locked then, my friend?” said Mr. Lorry, surprised.
“Ay. Yes,” was the grim reply of Monsieur Defarge.
“You think it necessary to keep the unfortunate gentleman so retired?”
“I think it necessary to turn the key.” Monsieur Defarge whispered it close_n his ear, and frowned heavily.
“Why! Because he has lived so long, locked up, that he would b_rightened—rave—tear himself to pieces—d-ie-come to I know not what harm—i_is door was left open.”
“Is it possible!” exclaimed Mr. Lorry.
“Is it possible!” repeated Defarge, bitterly. “Yes. And a beautiful world w_ive in, when it IS possible, and when many other such things are possible, and not only possible, but done—done, see you!—under that sky there, ever_ay. Long live the Devil. Let us go on.”
This dialogue had been held in so very low a whisper, that not a word of i_ad reached the young lady’s ears. But, by this time she trembled under suc_trong emotion, and her face expressed such deep anxiety, and, above all, suc_read and terror, that Mr. Lorry felt it incumbent on him to speak a word o_wo of reassurance.
“Courage, dear miss! Courage! Business! The worst will be over in a moment; i_s but passing the room-door, and the worst is over. Then, all the good yo_ring to him, all the relief, all the happiness you bring to him, begin. Le_ur good friend here, assist you on that side. That’s well, friend Defarge.
Come, now. Business, business!”
They went up slowly and softly. The staircase was short, and they were soon a_he top. There, as it had an abrupt turn in it, they came all at once in sigh_f three men, whose heads were bent down close together at the side of a door, and who were intently looking into the room to which the door belonged, through some chinks or holes in the wall. On hearing footsteps close at hand, these three turned, and rose, and showed themselves to be the three of on_ame who had been drinking in the wine-shop.
“I forgot them in the surprise of your visit,” explained Monsieur Defarge.
“Leave us, good boys; we have business here.”
The three glided by, and went silently down.
There appearing to be no other door on that floor, and the keeper of the wine- shop going straight to this one when they were left alone, Mr. Lorry asked hi_n a whisper, with a little anger:
“Do you make a show of Monsieur Manette?”
“I show him, in the way you have seen, to a chosen few.”
“Is that well?”
“I think it is well.”
“Who are the few? How do you choose them?”
“I choose them as real men, of my name—Jacques is my name—to whom the sight i_ikely to do good. Enough; you are English; that is another thing. Stay there, if you please, a little moment.”
With an admonitory gesture to keep them back, he stooped, and looked i_hrough the crevice in the wall. Soon raising his head again, he struck twic_r thrice upon the door—evidently with no other object than to make a nois_here. With the same intention, he drew the key across it, three or fou_imes, before he put it clumsily into the lock, and turned it as heavily as h_ould.
The door slowly opened inward under his hand, and he looked into the room an_aid something. A faint voice answered something. Little more than a singl_yllable could have been spoken on either side.
He looked back over his shoulder, and beckoned them to enter. Mr. Lorry go_is arm securely round the daughter’s waist, and held her; for he felt tha_he was sinking.
“A—a—a—business, business!” he urged, with a moisture that was not of busines_hining on his cheek. “Come in, come in!”
“I am afraid of it,” she answered, shuddering.
“Of it? What?”
“I mean of him. Of my father.”
Rendered in a manner desperate, by her state and by the beckoning of thei_onductor, he drew over his neck the arm that shook upon his shoulder, lifte_er a little, and hurried her into the room. He sat her down just within th_oor, and held her, clinging to him.
Defarge drew out the key, closed the door, locked it on the inside, took ou_he key again, and held it in his hand. All this he did, methodically, an_ith as loud and harsh an accompaniment of noise as he could make. Finally, h_alked across the room with a measured tread to where the window was. H_topped there, and faced round.
The garret, built to be a depository for firewood and the like, was dim an_ark: for, the window of dormer shape, was in truth a door in the roof, with _ittle crane over it for the hoisting up of stores from the street: unglazed, and closing up the middle in two pieces, like any other door of Frenc_onstruction. To exclude the cold, one half of this door was fast closed, an_he other was opened but a very little way. Such a scanty portion of light wa_dmitted through these means, that it was difficult, on first coming in, t_ee anything; and long habit alone could have slowly formed in any one, th_bility to do any work requiring nicety in such obscurity. Yet, work of tha_ind was being done in the garret; for, with his back towards the door, an_is face towards the window where the keeper of the wine-shop stood looking a_im, a white-haired man sat on a low bench, stooping forward and very busy, making shoes.