The quiet lodgings of Doctor Manette were in a quiet street-corner not fa_rom Soho-square. On the afternoon of a certain fine Sunday when the waves o_our months had roiled over the trial for treason, and carried it, as to th_ublic interest and memory, far out to sea, Mr. Jarvis Lorry walked along th_unny streets from Clerkenwell where he lived, on his way to dine with th_octor. After several relapses into business-absorption, Mr. Lorry had becom_he Doctor’s friend, and the quiet street-corner was the sunny part of hi_ife.
On this certain fine Sunday, Mr. Lorry walked towards Soho, early in th_fternoon, for three reasons of habit. Firstly, because, on fine Sundays, h_ften walked out, before dinner, with the Doctor and Lucie; secondly, because, on unfavourable Sundays, he was accustomed to be with them as the famil_riend, talking, reading, looking out of window, and generally getting throug_he day; thirdly, because he happened to have his own little shrewd doubts t_olve, and knew how the ways of the Doctor’s household pointed to that time a_ likely time for solving them.
A quainter corner than the corner where the Doctor lived, was not to be foun_n London. There was no way through it, and the front windows of the Doctor’_odgings commanded a pleasant little vista of street that had a congenial ai_f retirement on it. There were few buildings then, north of the Oxford-road, and forest-trees flourished, and wild flowers grew, and the hawthor_lossomed, in the now vanished fields. As a consequence, country air_irculated in Soho with vigorous freedom, instead of languishing into th_arish like stray paupers without a settlement; and there was many a goo_outh wall, not far off, on which the peaches ripened in their season.
The summer light struck into the corner brilliantly in the earlier part of th_ay; but, when the streets grew hot, the corner was in shadow, though not i_hadow so remote but that you could see beyond it into a glare of brightness.
It was a cool spot, staid but cheerful, a wonderful place for echoes, and _ery harbour from the raging streets.
There ought to have been a tranquil bark in such an anchorage, and there was.
The Doctor occupied two floors of a large stiff house, where several calling_urported to be pursued by day, but whereof little was audible any day, an_hich was shunned by all of them at night. In a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where a plane-tree rustled its green leaves, church- organs claimed to be made, and silver to be chased, and likewise gold to b_eaten by some mysterious giant who had a golden arm starting out of the wal_f the front hall—as if he had beaten himself precious, and menaced a simila_onversion of all visitors. Very little of these trades, or of a lonely lodge_umoured to live up-stairs, or of a dim coach-trimming maker asserted to hav_ counting-house below, was ever heard or seen. Occasionally, a stray workma_utting his coat on, traversed the hall, or a stranger peered about there, o_ distant clink was heard across the courtyard, or a thump from the golde_iant. These, however, were only the exceptions required to prove the rul_hat the sparrows in the plane-tree behind the house, and the echoes in th_orner before it, had their own way from Sunday morning unto Saturday night.
Doctor Manette received such patients here as his old reputation, and it_evival in the floating whispers of his story, brought him. His scientifi_nowledge, and his vigilance and skill in conducting ingenious experiments, brought him otherwise into moderate request, and he earned as much as h_anted.
These things were within Mr. Jarvis Lorry’s knowledge, thoughts, and notice, when he rang the door-bell of the tranquil house in the corner, on the fin_unday afternoon.
“Doctor Manette at home?”
“Miss Lucie at home?”
“Miss Pross at home?”
Possibly at home, but of a certainty impossible for handmaid to anticipat_ntentions of Miss Pross, as to admission or denial of the fact.
“As I am at home myself,” said Mr. Lorry, “I’ll go upstairs.”
Although the Doctor’s daughter had known nothing of the country of her birth, she appeared to have innately derived from it that ability to make much o_ittle means, which is one of its most useful and most agreeabl_haracteristics. Simple as the furniture was, it was set off by so many littl_dornments, of no value but for their taste and fancy, that its effect wa_elightful. The disposition of everything in the rooms, from the larges_bject to the least; the arrangement of colours, the elegant variety an_ontrast obtained by thrift in trifles, by delicate hands, clear eyes, an_ood sense; were at once so pleasant in themselves, and so expressive of thei_riginator, that, as Mr. Lorry stood looking about him, the very chairs an_ables seemed to ask him, with something of that peculiar expression which h_new so well by this time, whether he approved?
There were three rooms on a floor, and, the doors by which they communicate_eing put open that the air might pass freely through them all, Mr. Lorry, smilingly observant of that fanciful resemblance which he detected all aroun_im, walked from one to another. The first was the best room, and in it wer_ucie’s birds, and flowers, and books, and desk, and work-table, and box o_ater-colours; the second was the Doctor’s consulting-room, used also as th_ining-room; the third, changingly speckled by the rustle of the plane-tree i_he yard, was the Doctor’s bedroom, and there, in a corner, stood the disuse_hoemaker’s bench and tray of tools, much as it had stood on the fifth floo_f the dismal house by the wine-shop, in the suburb of Saint Antoine in Paris.
“I wonder,” said Mr. Lorry, pausing in his looking about, “that he keeps tha_eminder of his sufferings about him!”
“And why wonder at that?” was the abrupt inquiry that made him start.
It proceeded from Miss Pross, the wild red woman, strong of hand, whos_cquaintance he had first made at the Royal George Hotel at Dover, and ha_ince improved.
“I should have thought—” Mr. Lorry began.
“Pooh! You’d have thought!” said Miss Pross; and Mr. Lorry left off.
“How do you do?” inquired that lady then—sharply, and yet as if to expres_hat she bore him no malice.
“I am pretty well, I thank you,” answered Mr. Lorry, with meekness; “how ar_ou?”
“Nothing to boast of,” said Miss Pross.
“Ah! indeed!” said Miss Pross. “I am very much put out about my Ladybird.”
“For gracious sake say something else besides ‘indeed,’ or you’ll fidget me t_eath,” said Miss Pross: whose character (dissociated from stature) wa_hortness.
“Really, then?” said Mr. Lorry, as an amendment.
“Really, is bad enough,” returned Miss Pross, “but better. Yes, I am very muc_ut out.”
“May I ask the cause?”
“I don’t want dozens of people who are not at all worthy of Ladybird, to com_ere looking after her,” said Miss Pross.
“DO dozens come for that purpose?”
“Hundreds,” said Miss Pross.
It was characteristic of this lady (as of some other people before her tim_nd since) that whenever her original proposition was questioned, sh_xaggerated it.
“Dear me!” said Mr. Lorry, as the safest remark he could think of.
“I have lived with the darling—or the darling has lived with me, and paid m_or it; which she certainly should never have done, you may take you_ffidavit, if I could have afforded to keep either myself or her fo_othing—since she was ten years old. And it’s really very hard,” said Mis_ross.
Not seeing with precision what was very hard, Mr. Lorry shook his head; usin_hat important part of himself as a sort of fairy cloak that would fi_nything.
“All sorts of people who are not in the least degree worthy of the pet, ar_lways turning up,” said Miss Pross. “When you began it—”
“I began it, Miss Pross?”
“Didn’t you? Who brought her father to life?”
“Oh! If that was beginning it—” said Mr. Lorry.
“It wasn’t ending it, I suppose? I say, when you began it, it was hard enough; not that I have any fault to find with Doctor Manette, except that he is no_orthy of such a daughter, which is no imputation on him, for it was not to b_xpected that anybody should be, under any circumstances. But it ready i_oubly and trebly hard to have crowds and multitudes of people turning u_fter him (I could have forgiven him), to take Ladybird’s affections away fro_e.”
Mr. Lorry knew Miss Pross to be very jealous, but he also knew her by thi_ime to be, beneath the service of her eccentricity, one of those unselfis_reatures—found only among women—who will, for pure love and admiration, bin_hemselves willing slaves, to youth when they have lost it, to beauty tha_hey never had, to accomplishments that they were never fortunate enough t_ain, to bright hopes that never shone upon their own sombre lives. He kne_nough of the world to know that there is nothing in it better than th_aithful service of the heart; so rendered and so free from any mercenar_aint, he had such an exalted respect for it, that in the retributiv_rrangements made by his own mind—we all make such arrangements, more or less— he stationed Miss Pross much nearer to the lower Angels than many ladie_mmeasurably better got up both by Nature and Art, who had balances a_ellson’s.
“There never was, nor will be, but one man worthy of Ladybird,” said Mis_ross; “and that was my brother Solomon, if he hadn’t made a mistake in life.”
Here again Mr. Lorry’s inquiries into Miss Pross’s personal history ha_stablished the fact that her brother Solomon was a heartless scoundrel wh_ad stripped her of everything she possessed, as a stake to speculate with, and had abandoned her in her poverty for evermore, with no touch o_ompunction. Miss Pross’s fidelity of belief in Solomon (deducting a mer_rifle for this slight mistake) was quite a serious matter with Mr. Lorry, an_ad its weight in his good opinion of her. “As we happen to be alone for th_oment, and are both people of business,” he said, when they had got back t_he drawing-room and had sat down there in friendly relations, “let me as_ou—does the Doctor, in talking with Lucie, never refer to the shoemakin_ime, yet?”
“And yet keeps that bench and those tools beside him?”
“Ah!” returned Miss Pross, shaking her head. “But I don’t say he don’t refe_o it within himself.”
“Do you believe that he thinks of it much?”
“I do,” said Miss Pross.
“Do you imagine—” Mr. Lorry had begun, when Miss Pross took him up short with:
“Never imagine anything. Have no imagination at all.”
“I stand corrected; do you suppose—you go so far as to suppose, sometimes?”
“Now and then,” said Miss Pross.
“Do you suppose,” Mr. Lorry went on, with a laughing twinkle in his brigh_ye, as it looked kindly at her, “that Doctor Manette has any theory of hi_wn, preserved through all those years, relative to the cause of his being s_ppressed; perhaps, even to the name of his oppressor?”
“I don’t suppose anything about it but what Ladybird tells me.”
“And that is—?”
“That she thinks he has.”
“Now don’t be angry at my asking all these questions; because I am a mere dul_an of business, and you are a woman of business.”
“Dull?” Miss Pross inquired, with placidity.
Rather wishing his modest adjective away, Mr. Lorry replied, “No, no, no.
Surely not. To return to business:—Is it not remarkable that Doctor Manette, unquestionably innocent of any crane as we are all well assured he is, shoul_ever touch upon that question? I will not say with me, though he had busines_elations with me many years ago, and we are now intimate; I will say with th_air daughter to whom he is so devotedly attached, and who is so devotedl_ttached to him? Believe me, Miss Pross, I don’t approach the topic with you, out of curiosity, but out of zealous interest.”
“Well! To the best of my understanding, and bad’s the best, you’ll tell me,” said Miss Pross, softened by the tone of the apology, “he is afraid of th_hole subject.”
“It’s plain enough, I should think, why he may be. It’s a dreadfu_emembrance. Besides that, his loss of himself grew out of it. Not knowing ho_e lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may never feel certain of no_osing himself again. That alone wouldn’t make the subject pleasant, I shoul_hink.”
It was a profounder remark than Mr. Lorry had looked for. “True,” said he, “and fearful to reflect upon. Yet, a doubt lurks in my mind, Miss Pross, whether it is good for Doctor Manette to have that suppression always shut u_ithin him. Indeed, it is this doubt and the uneasiness it sometimes causes m_hat has led me to our present confidence.”
“Can’t be helped,” said Miss Pross, shaking her head. “Touch that string, an_e instantly changes for the worse. Better leave it alone. In short, mus_eave it alone, like or no like. Sometimes, he gets up in the dead of th_ight, and will be heard, by us overhead there, walking up and down, walkin_p and down, in his room. Ladybird has learnt to know then that his mind i_alking up and down, walking up and down, in his old prison. She hurries t_im, and they go on together, walking up and down, walking up and down, unti_e is composed. But he never says a word of the true reason of hi_estlessness, to her, and she finds it best not to hint at it to him. I_ilence they go walking up and down together, walking up and down together, till her love and company have brought him to himself.”
Notwithstanding Miss Pross’s denial of her own imagination, there was _erception of the pain of being monotonously haunted by one sad idea, in he_epetition of the phrase, walking up and down, which testified to he_ossessing such a thing.
The corner has been mentioned as a wonderful corner for echoes; it had begu_o echo so resoundingly to the tread of coming feet, that it seemed as thoug_he very mention of that weary pacing to and fro had set it going.
“Here they are!” said Miss Pross, rising to break up the conference; “and no_e shall have hundreds of people pretty soon!”
It was such a curious corner in its acoustical properties, such a peculiar Ea_f a place, that as Mr. Lorry stood at the open window, looking for the fathe_nd daughter whose steps he heard, he fancied they would never approach. No_nly would the echoes die away, as though the steps had gone; but, echoes o_ther steps that never came would be heard in their stead, and would die awa_or good when they seemed close at hand. However, father and daughter did a_ast appear, and Miss Pross was ready at the street door to receive them.
Miss Pross was a pleasant sight, albeit wild, and red, and grim, taking of_er darling’s bonnet when she came up-stairs, and touching it up with the end_f her handkerchief, and blowing the dust off it, and folding her mantle read_or laying by, and smoothing her rich hair with as much pride as she coul_ossibly have taken in her own hair if she had been the vainest and handsomes_f women. Her darling was a pleasant sight too, embracing her and thankin_er, and protesting against her taking so much trouble for her—which last sh_nly dared to do playfully, or Miss Pross, sorely hurt, would have retired t_er own chamber and cried. The Doctor was a pleasant sight too, looking on a_hem, and telling Miss Pross how she spoilt Lucie, in accents and with eye_hat had as much spoiling in them as Miss Pross had, and would have had mor_f it were possible. Mr. Lorry was a pleasant sight too, beaming at all thi_n his little wig, and thanking his bachelor stars for having lighted him i_is declining years to a Home. But, no Hundreds of people came to see th_ights, and Mr. Lorry looked in vain for the fulfilment of Miss Pross’_rediction.
Dinner-time, and still no Hundreds of people. In the arrangements of th_ittle household, Miss Pross took charge of the lower regions, and alway_cquitted herself marvellously. Her dinners, of a very modest quality, were s_ell cooked and so well served, and so neat in their contrivances, hal_nglish and half French, that nothing could be better. Miss Pross’s friendshi_eing of the thoroughly practical kind, she had ravaged Soho and the adjacen_rovinces, in search of impoverished French, who, tempted by shillings an_alf- crowns, would impart culinary mysteries to her. From these decayed son_nd daughters of Gaul, she had acquired such wonderful arts, that the woma_nd girl who formed the staff of domestics regarded her as quite a Sorceress, or Cinderella’s Godmother: who would send out for a fowl, a rabbit, _egetable or two from the garden, and change them into anything she pleased.
On Sundays, Miss Pross dined at the Doctor’s table, but on other day_ersisted in taking her meals at unknown periods, either in the lower regions, or in her own room on the second floor—a blue chamber, to which no one but he_adybird ever gained admittance. On this occasion, Miss Pross, responding t_adybird’s pleasant face and pleasant efforts to please her, unben_xceedingly; so the dinner was very pleasant, too.
It was an oppressive day, and, after dinner, Lucie proposed that the win_hould be carried out under the plane-tree, and they should sit there in th_ir. As everything turned upon her, and revolved about her, they went ou_nder the plane-tree, and she carried the wine down for the special benefit o_r. Lorry. She had installed herself, some time before, as Mr. Lorry’s cup- bearer; and while they sat under the plane-tree, talking, she kept his glas_eplenished. Mysterious backs and ends of houses peeped at them as the_alked, and the plane-tree whispered to them in its own way above their heads.
Still, the Hundreds of people did not present themselves. Mr. Darnay presente_imself while they were sitting under the plane-tree, but he was only One.
Doctor Manette received him kindly, and so did Lucie. But, Miss Pross suddenl_ecame afflicted with a twitching in the head and body, and retired into th_ouse. She was not unfrequently the victim of this disorder, and she calle_t, in familiar conversation, “a fit of the jerks.”
The Doctor was in his best condition, and looked specially young. Th_esemblance between him and Lucie was very strong at such times, and as the_at side by side, she leaning on his shoulder, and he resting his arm on th_ack of her chair, it was very agreeable to trace the likeness.
He had been talking all day, on many subjects, and with unusual vivacity.
“Pray, Doctor Manette,” said Mr. Darnay, as they sat under the plane-tree—an_e said it in the natural pursuit of the topic in hand, which happened to b_he old buildings of London—“have you seen much of the Tower?”
“Lucie and I have been there; but only casually. We have seen enough of it, t_now that it teems with interest; little more.”
“I have been there, as you remember,” said Darnay, with a smile, thoug_eddening a little angrily, “in another character, and not in a character tha_ives facilities for seeing much of it. They told me a curious thing when _as there.”
“What was that?” Lucie asked.
“In making some alterations, the workmen came upon an old dungeon, which ha_een, for many years, built up and forgotten. Every stone of its inner wal_as covered by inscriptions which had been carved by prisoners—dates, names, complaints, and prayers. Upon a corner stone in an angle of the wall, on_risoner, who seemed to have gone to execution, had cut as his last work, three letters. They were done with some very poor instrument, and hurriedly, with an unsteady hand. At first, they were read as D. I. C.; but, on bein_ore carefully examined, the last letter was found to be G. There was n_ecord or legend of any prisoner with those initials, and many fruitles_uesses were made what the name could have been. At length, it was suggeste_hat the letters were not initials, but the complete word, DiG. The floor wa_xamined very carefully under the inscription, and, in the earth beneath _tone, or tile, or some fragment of paving, were found the ashes of a paper, mingled with the ashes of a small leathern case or bag. What the unknow_risoner had written will never be read, but he had written something, an_idden it away to keep it from the gaoler.”
“My father,” exclaimed Lucie, ”you are ill!”
He had suddenly started up, with his hand to his head. His manner and his loo_uite terrified them all.
“No, my dear, not ill. There are large drops of rain falling, and they made m_tart. We had better go in.”
He recovered himself almost instantly. Rain was really falling in large drops, and he showed the back of his hand with rain-drops on it. But, he said not _ingle word in reference to the discovery that had been told of, and, as the_ent into the house, the business eye of Mr. Lorry either detected, or fancie_t detected, on his face, as it turned towards Charles Darnay, the sam_ingular look that had been upon it when it turned towards him in the passage_f the Court House.
He recovered himself so quickly, however, that Mr. Lorry had doubts of hi_usiness eye. The arm of the golden giant in the hall was not more steady tha_e was, when he stopped under it to remark to them that he was not yet proo_gainst slight surprises (if he ever would be), and that the rain had startle_im.
Tea-time, and Miss Pross making tea, with another fit of the jerks upon her, and yet no Hundreds of people. Mr. Carton had lounged in, but he made onl_wo.
The night was so very sultry, that although they sat with doors and window_pen, they were overpowered by heat. When the tea-table was done with, the_ll moved to one of the windows, and looked out into the heavy twilight. Luci_at by her father; Darnay sat beside her; Carton leaned against a window. Th_urtains were long and white, and some of the thunder-gusts that whirled int_he corner, caught them up to the ceiling, and waved them like spectral wings.
“The rain-drops are still falling, large, heavy, and few,” said Docto_anette. “It comes slowly.”
“It comes surely,” said Carton.
They spoke low, as people watching and waiting mostly do; as people in a dar_oom, watching and waiting for Lightning, always do.
There was a great hurry in the streets of people speeding away to get shelte_efore the storm broke; the wonderful corner for echoes resounded with th_choes of footsteps coming and going, yet not a footstep was there.
“A multitude of people, and yet a solitude!” said Darnay, when they ha_istened for a while.
“Is it not impressive, Mr. Darnay?” asked Lucie. “Sometimes, I have sat her_f an evening, until I have fancied—but even the shade of a foolish fanc_akes me shudder to-night, when all is so black and solemn—”
“Let us shudder too. We may know what it is.”
“It will seem nothing to you. Such whims are only impressive as we originat_hem, I think; they are not to be communicated. I have sometimes sat alon_ere of an evening, listening, until I have made the echoes out to be th_choes of all the footsteps that are coming by-and-bye into our lives.”
“There is a great crowd coming one day into our lives, if that be so,” Sydne_arton struck in, in his moody way.
The footsteps were incessant, and the hurry of them became more and mor_apid. The corner echoed and re-echoed with the tread of feet; some, as i_eemed, under the windows; some, as it seemed, in the room; some coming, som_oing, some breaking off, some stopping altogether; all in the distan_treets, and not one within sight.
“Are all these footsteps destined to come to all of us, Miss Manette, or ar_e to divide them among us?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Darnay; I told you it was a foolish fancy, but you aske_or it. When I have yielded myself to it, I have been alone, and then I hav_magined them the footsteps of the people who are to come into my life, and m_ather’s.”
“I take them into mine!” said Carton. “I ask no questions and make n_tipulations. There is a great crowd bearing down upon us, Miss Manette, and _ee them—by the Lightning.” He added the last words, after there had been _ivid flash which had shown him lounging in the window.
“And I hear them!” he added again, after a peal of thunder. “Here they come, fast, fierce, and furious!”
It was the rush and roar of rain that he typified, and it stopped him, for n_oice could be heard in it. A memorable storm of thunder and lightning brok_ith that sweep of water, and there was not a moment’s interval in crash, an_ire, and rain, until after the moon rose at midnight.
The great bell of Saint Paul’s was striking one in the cleared air, when Mr.
Lorry, escorted by Jerry, high-booted and bearing a lantern, set forth on hi_eturn-passage to Clerkenwell. There were solitary patches of road on the wa_etween Soho and Clerkenwell, and Mr. Lorry, mindful of foot-pads, alway_etained Jerry for this service: though it was usually performed a good tw_ours earlier.
“What a night it has been! Almost a night, Jerry,” said Mr. Lorry, “to brin_he dead out of their graves.”
“I never see the night myself, master—nor yet I don’t expect to— what would d_hat,” answered Jerry.
“Good night, Mr. Carton,” said the man of business. “Good night, Mr. Darnay.
Shall we ever see such a night again, together!”
Perhaps. Perhaps, see the great crowd of people with its rush and roar, bearing down upon them, too.