In London, he had expected neither to walk on pavements of gold, norto lie on beds of roses; if he had had any such exalted expectation,he would not have prospered. He had expected labour, and he foundit, and did it and made the best of it. In this, his prosperityconsisted.
A certain portion of his time was passed at Cambridge, where he readwith undergraduates as a sort of tolerated smuggler who drove acontraband trade in European languages, instead of conveying Greek andLatin through the Custom-house. The rest of his time he passed inLondon.
Now, from the days when it was always summer in Eden, to thesedays when it is mostly winter in fallen latitudes, the world of aman has invariably gone one way- Charles Darnay's way- the way ofthe love of a woman.
He had loved Lucie Manette from the hour of his danger. He had neverheard a sound so sweet and dear as the sound of her compassionatevoice; he had never seen a face so tenderly beautiful, as hers when itwas confronted with his own on the edge of the grave that had been dugfor him. But, he had not yet spoken to her on the subject; theassassination at the deserted chateau far away beyond the heavingwater and the long, long, dusty roads- the solid stone chateau whichhad itself become the mere mist of a dream- had been done a year,and he had never yet, by so much as a single spoken word, disclosed toher the state of his heart.
That he had his reasons for this, he knew full well. It was againa summer day when, lately arrived in London from his collegeoccupation, he turned into the quiet corner in Soho, bent on seekingan opportunity of opening his mind to Doctor Manette. It was the closeof the summer day, and he knew Lucie to be out with Miss Pross.
He found the Doctor reading in his arm-chair at a window. The energywhich had at once supported him under his old sufferings andaggravated their sharpness, had been gradually restored to him. He wasnow a very energetic man indeed, with great firmness of purpose,strength of resolution, and vigour of action. In his recoveredenergy he was sometimes a little fitful and sudden, as he had at firstbeen in the exercise of his other recovered faculties; but, this hadnever been frequently observable, and had grown more and more rare.
He studied much, slept little, sustained a great deal of fatiguewith ease, and was equably cheerful. To him, now entered CharlesDarnay, at sight of whom he laid aside his book and held out his hand.
"Charles Darnay! I rejoice to see you. We have been counting on yourreturn these three or four days past. Mr. Stryver and Sydney Cartonwere both here yesterday, and both made you out to be more than due."
"I am obliged to them for their interest in the matter," heanswered, a little coldly as to them, though very warmly as to theDoctor. "Miss Manette--"
"Is well," said the Doctor, as he stopped short, "and your returnwill delight us all. She has gone out on some household matters, butwill soon be home."
"Doctor Manette, I knew she was from home. I took the opportunity ofher being from home, to beg to speak to you."
There was a blank silence.
"Yes?" said the Doctor, with evident constraint. "Bring your chairhere, and speak on."
He complied as to the chair, but appeared to find the speaking onless easy.
"I have had the happiness, Doctor Manette, of being so intimatehere," so he at length began, "for some year and a half, that I hopethe topic on which I am about to touch may not--"
He was stayed by the Doctor's putting out his hand to stop him. Whenhe had kept it so a little while, he said, drawing it back:
"Is Lucie the topic?"
"It is hard for me to speak of her at any time. It is very hardfor me to hear her spoken of in that tone of yours, Charles Darnay."
"It is a tone of fervent admiration, true homage, and deep love,Doctor Manette!" he said deferentially.
There was another blank silence before her father rejoined:
"I believe it. I do you justice; I believe it."
His constraint was so manifest, and it was so manifest, too, that itoriginated in an unwillingness to approach the subject, that CharlesDarnay hesitated.
"Shall I go on, sir?"
"Yes, go on."
"You anticipate what I would say, though you cannot know howearnestly I say it, how earnestly I feel it, without knowing my secretheart, and the hopes and fears and anxieties with which it has longbeen laden. Dear Doctor Manette, I love your daughter fondly,dearly, disinterestedly, devotedly. If ever there were love in theworld, I love her. You have loved yourself; let your old love speakfor me!"
The Doctor sat with his face turned away, and his eyes bent on theground. At the last words, he stretched out his hand again, hurriedly,and cried:
"Not that, sir! Let that be! I adjure you, do not recall that!"
His cry was so like a cry of actual pain, that it rang in CharlesDarnay's ears long after he had ceased. He motioned with the hand hehad extended, and it seemed to be an appeal to Darnay to pause. Thelatter so received it, and remained silent.
"I ask your pardon," said the Doctor, in a subdued tone, aftersome moments. "I do not doubt your loving Lucie; you may besatisfied of it."
He turned towards him in his chair, but did not look at him, orraise his eyes. His chin dropped upon his hand, and his white hairovershadowed his face:
"Have you spoken to Lucie?"
"It would be ungenerous to affect not to know that yourself-denial is to be referred to your consideration for her father.Her father thanks you."
He offered his hand; but his eyes did not go with it.
"I know," said Darnay, respectfully, "how can I fail to know, DoctorManette, I who have seen you together from day to day, that betweenyou and Miss Manette there is an affection so unusual, so touching, sobelonging to the circumstances in which it has been nurtured, thatit can have few parallels, even in the tenderness between a father andchild. I know, Doctor Manette- how can I fail to know- that, mingledwith the affection and duty of a daughter who has become a woman,there is, in her heart, towards you, all the love and reliance ofinfancy itself. I know that, as in her childhood she had no parent, soshe is now devoted to you with all the constancy and fervour of herpresent years and character, united to the trustfulness and attachmentof the early days in which you were lost to her. I know perfectly wellthat if you had been restored to her from the world beyond thislife, you could hardly be invested, in her sight, with a more sacredcharacter than that in which you are always with her. I know that whenshe is clinging to you, the hands of baby, girl, and woman, all inone, are round your neck. I know that in loving you she sees and lovesher mother at her own age, sees and loves you at my age, loves hermother broken-hearted, loves you through your dreadful trial and inyour blessed restoration. I have known this, night and day, since Ihave known you in your home."
Her father sat silent, with his face bent down. His breathing wasa little quickened; but he repressed all other signs of agitation.
"Dear Doctor Manette, always knowing this, always seeing her and youwith this hallowed light about you, I have forborne, and forborne,as long as it was in the nature of man to do it. I have felt, and doeven now feel, that to bring my love- even mine- between you, is totouch your history with something not quite so good as itself. But Ilove her. Heaven is my witness that I love her!"
"I believe it," answered her father, mournfully. "I have thoughtso before now. I believe it."
"But, do not believe," said Darnay, upon whose ear the mournfulvoice struck with a reproachful sound, "that if my fortune were socast as that, being one day so happy as to make her my wife, I must atany time put any separation between her and you, I could or wouldbreathe a word of what I now say. Besides that I should know it tobe hopeless, I should know it to be a baseness. If I had any suchpossibility, even at a remote distance of years, harboured in mythoughts, and hidden in my heart- if it ever had been there- if itever could be there- I could not now touch this honoured hand."
He laid his own upon it as he spoke.
"No, dear Doctor Manette. Like you, a voluntary exile from France;like you, driven from it by its distractions, oppressions, andmiseries; like you, striving to live away from it by my own exertions,and trusting in a happier future; I look only to sharing yourfortunes, sharing your Life and home, and being faithful to you to thedeath. Not to divide with Lucie her privilege as your child,companion, and friend; but to come in aid of it, and bind her closerto you, if such a thing can be."
His touch still lingered on her father's hand. Answering the touchfor a moment, but not coldly, her father rested his hands upon thearms of his chair, and looked up for the first time since thebeginning of the conference. A struggle was evidently in his face; astruggle with that occasional look which had a tendency in it todark doubt and dread.
"You speak so feelingly and so manfully, Charles Darnay, that Ithank you with all my heart, and will open all my heart- or nearly so.Have you any reason to believe that Lucie loves you?"
"None. As yet, none."
"Is it the immediate object of this confidence, that you may at onceascertain that, with my knowledge?"
"Not even so. I might not have the hopefulness to do it for weeks; Imight (mistaken or not mistaken) have that hopefulness to-morrow."
"Do you seek any guidance from me?"
"I ask none, sir. But I have thought it possible that you might haveit in your power, if you should deem it right, to give me some."
"Do you seek any promise from me?"
"I do seek that."
"What is it?"
"I well understand that, without you, I could have no hope. I wellunderstand that, even if Miss Manette held me at this moment in herinnocent heart- do not think I have the presumption to assume so much-I could retain no place in it against her love for her father."
"If that be so, do you see what, on the other hand, is involved init?"
"I understand equally well, that a word from her father in anysuitor's favour, would outweigh herself and all the world. For whichreason, Doctor Manette," said Darnay, modestly but firmly, "I wouldnot ask that word, to save my life."
"I am sure of it. Charles Darnay, mysteries arise out of close love,as well as out of wide division; in the former case, they are subtleand delicate, and difficult to penetrate. My daughter Lucie is, inthis one respect, such a mystery to me; I can make no guess at thestate of her heart."
"May I ask, sir, if you think she is--" As he hesitated, herfather supplied the rest.
"Is sought by any other suitor?"
"It is what I meant to say."
Her father considered a Little before he answered:
"You have seen Mr. Carton here, yourself. Mr. Stryver is here too,occasionally. If it be at all, it can only be by one of these."
"Or both," said Darnay.
"I had not thought of both; I should not think either, likely. Youwant a promise from me. Tell me what it is."
"It is, that if Miss Manette should bring to you at any time, on herown part, such a confidence as I have ventured to lay before you,you will bear testimony to what I have said, and to your belief in it.I hope you may be able to think so well of me, as to urge no influenceagainst me. I say nothing more of my stake in this; this is what Iask. The condition on which I ask it, and which you have anundoubted right to require, I will observe immediately."
"I give the promise," said the Doctor, "without any condition. Ibelieve your object to be, purely and truthfully, as you have statedit. I believe your intention is to perpetuate, and not to weaken,the ties between me and my other and far dearer self. If she shouldever tell me that you are essential to her perfect happiness, I willgive her to you. If there were- Charles Darnay, if there were--"
The young man had taken his hand gratefully; their bands were joinedas the Doctor spoke:
"-any fancies, any reasons, any apprehensions, anythingwhatsoever, new or old, against the man she really loved- the directresponsibility thereof not lying on his head- they should all beobliterated for her sake. She is everything to me; more to me thansuffering, more to me than wrong, more to me-- Well! This is idletalk."
So strange was the way in which he faded into silence, and sostrange his fixed look when he had ceased to speak, that Darnay felthis own hand turn cold in the hand that slowly released and droppedit.
"You said something to me," said Doctor Manette, breaking into asmile. "What was it you said to me?"
He was at a loss how to answer, until he remembered having spoken ofa condition. Relieved as his mind reverted to that, he answered:
"Your confidence in me ought to be returned with full confidenceon my part. My present name, though but slightly changed from mymother's, is not, as you will remember, my own. I wish to tell youwhat that is, and why I am in England."
"Stop!" said the Doctor of Beauvais.
"I wish it, that I may the better deserve your confidence, andhave no secret from you."
For an instant, the Doctor even had his two hands at his ears; foranother instant, even had his two hands laid on Darnay's lips.
"Tell me when I ask you, not now. If your suit should prosper, ifLucie should love you, you shall tell me on your marriage morning.Do you promise?"
"Give me your hand. She will be home directly, and it is bettershe should not see us together to-night. Go! God bless you!"
It was dark when Charles Darnay left him, and it was an hour laterand darker when Lucie came home; she hurried into the room alone-for Miss Pross had gone straight up-stairs- and was surprised tofind his reading-chair empty.
"My father!" she called to him. "Father dear!"
Nothing was said in answer, but she heard a low hammering sound inhis bedroom. Passing lightly across the intermediate room, shelooked in at his door and came running back frightened, crying toherself, with her blood all chilled, "What shall I do! What shall Ido!"
Her uncertainty lasted but a moment; she hurried back, and tapped athis door, and softly called to him. The noise ceased at the sound ofher voice, and he presently came out to her, and they walked up anddown together for a long time.
She came down from her bed, to look at him in his sleep thatnight. He slept heavily, and his tray of shoemaking tools, and his oldunfinished work, were all as usual.